620 Pulaski Highway
Bear, Del. 19701
Lynn Nathan and Joel Samick
Of all the former careers powersports dealers had before realizing their true calling, being a university English professor certainly could be one of the least likely. Yet that’s what Lynn Nathan, co-owner of Powersports East, started out doing. Nathan has been riding since 1973 and started road racing in 1976. When one of her bikes wasn’t running properly, she signed up for an adult-education motorcycle maintenance course, where she met her future husband and gained enough knowledge to occasionally work as a mechanic at his shop. Nathan eventually went on to become curriculum director for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Instead of moving to California for a job MSF offered her, Nathan and her husband opted to open what was then known as Honda East in 1985. Today, the dealership has expanded its offerings to seven franchises (Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, KMYCO, Polaris, Victory, Suzuki and Yamaha) and changed its name to reflect that. In addition to selling new and used ATVs, motorcycles, scooters and utility vehicles, Powersports East allows riders to rent bikes, whether for a trip or to try a bike out before deciding if it’s the right one to buy. The dealership also developed a Loyalty Card for its customers. The card gives one point for every dollar spent at the store. Customers can use the points to redeem merchandise for themselves or use the card as a gift for someone else.
Liability issues are about the only thing Nathan says she really worries about. Powersports East won’t take on Chinese product because of potential liability problems. The dealership follows all guidelines to avoid liability issues and has insurance, but Nathan knows it’s something that could still crop up.
Sport bikes are more than holding their own at Powersports East. Given the selection the dealership has and that the nearest similar-sized dealer is more than 40 miles away, Powersports East draws sport bikers from a wide area and they, for the most part, have found Suzuki to be their make of choice. Suzuki’s M109 has been the top-selling bike at the dealership, although it floors an equal amount of dirt bikes, cruisers and sport bikes, Nathan said. Scorpion helmets and Joe Rocket gear are also top sellers.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
The rise in female ridership hasn’t gone unnoticed at Powersports East. The dealership makes an effort to reach out to its female customers and make sure they’re comfortable. It created a “She Rides” section, where all the women’s gear the dealership stocks is kept. There are also plenty of dressing rooms. Powersports East also has trained its salespeople to approach a female first, if a couple enters the store. In doing so, the sales force aims to make sure women don’t feel put out by sales people, assuming the man was the one looking for something new to ride.
PARTS AND SERVICE
Powersports East has 10 technicians in its service department and eight employees in its parts department. The dealership does a lot of online parts business, thanks to its parts fiches. Customers can find parts for Honda, Polaris, Suzuki and Yamaha powersports vehicles using detailed and easy-to-understand diagrams the dealership links to. Service department members stay on staff through the winter to ensure short to non-existent waits during the riding season, Nathan said. Powersports East offers to pick up and deliver machines that need service. It guarantees the work it does and cleans the bikes after they’ve been serviced. The dealership manages to entice many of its customers to buy extended service contracts through its Peace of Mind program. Not only are owners covered if they ever run into a service snafu, but if they don’t use the contract during the five years it’s active, they get all their money back. “If they have to use it, they love us,” Nathan said, “If they don’t use it, they love us.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
The dealership gathers its customers for two rides every month. There is one for street bike riders and one for ATV riders. After the rides, some customers write up ride reports, which Powersports East posts on its Web site. The dealership also holds four open houses a year and casino night is one of the highlights. The showroom is cleared out to make way for gaming tables and the dealership uses the night to raise money for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Don’t be defensive, always be on the side of the customers,” Nathan said. “Especially at the service desk, customers come in and complain that something’s wrong. Instead of saying it’s not our fault, we say, ‘We’ll look at it and see. We’re advocates for you.’ People who are upset and concerned need to be empathized with instead of talked to. Also, hire as many women as possible. They make the best sales people, the best accessories people. They can get people to understand the value in things.”
Copyright 2007 Powersports Business