Aiken Motorcycle Sales & Service
2129 Whiskey Road
Aiken, S.C. 29803
Marvin Tumblin and Marsha Hopkins
Marsha Hopkins is her father’s daughter. From the time she was a small child, she watched her dad, Marvin Tumblin, work on neighbors’ motorcycles, first at the family’s home and later at a small repair shop. He was doing all this in the evenings, still holding down a day job as a pipe fitter. Tumblin went to work, got home and worked on bikes about four hours every evening. As Hopkins grew older, she continued to shadow the former flat tracker and learn the ropes of her father’s burgeoning powersports business near the South Carolina-Georgia border. Another young repairman, David Smiley, joined Tumblin, allowing the shop to open during the day. Exposed to motorcycles and riding at a young age, Hopkins followed through and joined her father in the company in the late 1970s. She is currently the company’s vice president. Aiken had carried some now-defunct motorcycle lines in its early years, but when the repair facility was granted a Suzuki franchise in 1977, Aiken Motorcycle Sales & Service in its modern form emerged. The dealership has since added Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha products to its lineup. Tumblin is still involved in the business and many of the enthusiast staff members have been around for at least a decade, including Smiley. They sell ATVs, motorcycles, scooters, UTVs and PWC.
With more than 30 years in the business, Marsha Hopkins says she has enough experience to not let much get too far under her skin. However, she is worried about the difficult economic climate that has settled over the nation. She points not so much to her business, but to her customers’ potential inability to buy. “When the economy is bad, people just don’t spend money as they normally do,” Hopkins said. “All in all it is a recreational industry. When there’s fewer dollars to spend, people might not choose to spend them on something like that.”
The country might be in the last throes of winter, but ATVs are currently attracting a lot of customer attention at Aiken Motorcycle. Utility quads in particular have been drawing interest. Yamaha’s Grizzly 350 is one of the hot commodities, but area customers have been buying up all brands of mid-sized ATVs for the past couple months, Hopkins says. There are several good riding areas within a two-hour drive, which have helped with sales, she added.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
The troubling economy has created customers who are much more interest rate sensitive than they have been in the past, Hopkins says. Potential buyers remain price sensitive as well. “The Internet has educated all our buyers,” Hopkins said. “If you’re able to know the product, we’ve found that people will shop with you if they know you try to stay on top of the product. We’ve also seen a little bit of a shift in people looking for motorcycles as transportation vs. just recreation.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Both departments play an integral role for the dealership. Parts and accessories is a huge revenue center for Aiken Motorcycle. Keeping the accessories department well stocked with staple items is the company’s key to success. People are much more likely to buy something they can take home with them, rather than having to wait for it to come in on order. Aiken also does quite a bit of bolt-on accessory sales. Another key to success is changing the store displays often to mix things up for the regular customers and giving them something different to look at whenever they visit. Knowledgeable and articulate parts people go a long way in sales to the home repair set, Hopkins says. “A strong service department gets you through the hard times,” Hopkins said. The service department always strives to give the customer more than he or she expects. “Giving the customer value for what they spend with us separates us from the competition,” Hopkins said. “I instill that I want [Aiken Motorcycle’s five service technicians] to treat every vehicle as their own, or better yet their sister’s or their mother’s. I try to keep our guys motivated to get that 110 percent out of them.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Along with community events and cruise-ins, Aiken Motorcycle holds an annual motorcycle awareness day. The company has organized the event for the past three years. The dealership takes its message to downtown Aiken to reach out to the greater community. Just as the name suggests, the company uses the event to remind others there are motorcycle riders out there and drivers should be cautious and alert to their presence. The event includes a live band, some displays and local Motorcycle Safety Foundation safety and riding instructors on hand for question and answer sessions.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Appreciating the customer and making sure they get value for what they spend is what’s going to keep the whole industry healthy,” Hopkins said.
— Lisa Young
Copyright 2008 Powersports Business