Hi Mountain Recreation
7175 Trade Center Ave.
Billings, Mont. 59101
After a disastrous fire and three moves in two and half years, Hi Mountain Recreation is settled in a 20,000-square-foot building and thriving. The fire, caused by static electricity from a snowmobile fuel tank, resulted in the destruction of the dealership just 30 days after it switched ownership in April 2006. To keep the dealership operating, owner Barry Usher, who also owns a Harley-Davidson dealership in Montana, moved Hi Mountain Recreation into the warehouse of his Harley store with “barely any product,” Usher said. About a month later, the store moved again to a temporary facility. “It wasn’t very pleasant,” Usher said of the transition space. But finally in September 2007, Hi Mountain Recreation settled in its current, more permanent building where it sells a variety of products. General Manager Chuck South says they sell a lot of BRP products. The dealership also carries Arctic Cat snowmobiles and ATVs, Husaberg motorcycles and KYMCO scooters. “We’re currently working on another line of motorcycles and scooters but we’re not at liberty to say,” Usher said. “And I just sent the paperwork in yesterday to get the Can-Am Spyder.” Behind the product lines and growing business is a staff that has a passion for the industry. “We want people to come in and enjoy the experience of our dealership rather than just coming in,” South said.
Keeping Montana’s riding trails open are not only a concern for the dealership, but an ongoing battle, South says. “It’s a constant fight to keep land use available to us,” he said. “We’re fighting just to keep our head above water.” Usher and dealership employees attend meeting after meeting in hopes of preventing the closure of different areas. It can be hard to keep the trails open because many snowmobilers come from the Midwest and are unaware of such issues. “They’re going to come out here one day and it’s not going to be open,” Usher said. “Some have been coming for 20 years but they aren’t going to know why it closed.” Event/Marketing Manager Kelly Emineth says that the dealership has been trying to educate consumers. “If we can help spread the word,” she said, “there are going to be a lot more people who will be thinking about it.” Usher mentioned another concern — the economy. He adds that Montana hasn’t been affected as much as some other states because the state’s biggest industries are oil, coal and agriculture, and all of those are up. “Our dealership was probably flat on watercraft from last year. Everything else is up, but we’re also a progressively growing company.”
Being in Billings, Mont., snowmobiles are exceptionally prevalent. The dealership sells mostly, if not all, mountain sleds. As for the most popular snowmobile, the 800 Ski-Doo stands out. Hi Mountain Recreation also sells a lot of 650 Can-Am ATVs as well. South estimates that it’s probably the dealership’s No. 1 seller.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
More customers are leaning toward customer service-based buying rather than price-based buying, which is Hi Mountain Recreation’s main goal, notes South. “We try to steer (customers) away from the price and attempt to go more toward selling the value of our dealership and product lines,” he said. “Sales have benefited more.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Due to the number of local and out-of-state snowmobilers, the dealership gets a lot of customers wanting their machines ready within a week during the riding season. “Snowmobiling is probably the biggest area that customers either break or wreck on a weekend, and they want to be ready to go the following weekend,” Usher said. “The trick is to get them in and out as quickly as possible and take care of them the first time. We try to give preferential treatment to those customers who buy their units from us but that doesn’t mean we won’t take care of everybody.” South adds they have two full-time technicians and one service manager. Hi Mountain Recreation has a significant parts department to accommodate the service area. “We have a large inventory for one thing,” South said. “We have a warehouse attached that’s roughly 3,500 square feet. It’s double stacked basically.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
About 600-800 people attended Hi Mountain Recreation’s event that hosted stunt rider Bubba Blackwell. “You have to understand Billings vs. a city like Atlanta,” Usher said. “Billings is only a town of 100,000 people. That 600-800 is a pretty decent crowd. In Atlanta, you could get 2,000-3,000 people.” Emineth says the dealership is in the process of generating more events. They’re currently working on doing an ATV demo day with a cook off this fall. “Right now we’re trying to promote a lot of our hunting aspect,” she said and added they’re aiming to draw more people into the dealership. “We want people to come into our showroom,” she said. “We want people to come in and talk and ask questions.” Emineth is working to produce innovative ideas for the future because one of the dealership’s goals is to be known for its events. “We get better and better as we go,” she said. “We’re trying to spread the word.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“We see a lot of people go the easy route and discount everything,” South said. “Sell the value of the dealership rather than trying to just discount the product.”
— Karin Gelschus
Hi Mountain Recreation – Billings, MT – Sept. 22, 2008