S & W Powersports
12000 Highway 78
Jasper, Ala. 35502
Jim Wilson Jr.
In its seventh decade of business, S & W Powersports has been operating under the Wilson family for four generations. It started out as a hardware business in 1945 and became a Honda dealer in 1960. Sales Manager Whit Wilson says the business was started by his great-grandfather and was run for more than 20 years by his father and grandfather until he recently passed away. Now his father is the sole owner, but one day Whit Wilson hopes to take it over. The dealership started with only the Honda line and later picked up Yamaha. It wasn’t until 2001-2002 when they picked up Polaris and a couple years after that, Suzuki and BRP’s Sea-Doo. Located about a half-hour outside of Birmingham, Ala., the dealership has a large ATV market. “In Alabama, there’s a big market for ATVs,” Wilson said. “Honda is our best-selling ATV followed very closely by Yamaha and Polaris. Our second best-sellers are street bikes.” S & W is content where it is, but in the near future it would like to move into a new building. “We’re not taking on anything else,” Wilson noted. “We just want to update it.”
With national and local elections less than a month away, talks of a challenging economy and increased gas prices continue, and they remain a concern for Wilson. Although increased gas prices have had a positive influence on scooter and some motorcycle sales, Wilson said the economy as a whole is “making people hold onto their money. (We just hope) the economy bounces back soon and people have that money to spend on luxury items and not just necessity items.”
The Honda TRX420 ATV is a hit for S & W Powersports. Wilson notes with the rebates, it has been a good seller.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Accompanying high gas prices are high scooter sales, and S & W Powersports has witnessed the demand increase. “If you came in with a brief case full of $7,000 and wanted to buy a $6,000 scooter, I probably couldn’t find you one right now,” Wilson said, noting the gas mileage issue has extended to motorcycles. “Before people would ask what the gas mileage was, but it wasn’t a big deal. Now they’re looking for something.” The dealership carries Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki scooters, but because they’re in high demand, Wilson notes people aren’t adamant about a specific manufacturer. “They buy what I have,” he said. “The first part of the year, people still thought they could call around but might have to drive awhile (to get a scooter), but they figured out that there aren’t any.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
S & W Powersports sells a lot of parts, and Wilson says a significant portion of that can be attributed to the fact they’re a Fox dealer. Another big seller for the dealership is ITP tires for ATVs. “We started out with only two or three sets in stock, and now we have seven or eight in stock,” Wilson noted. “We have really sold a lot of those. For a couple hundred (dollars) more, you can get a much nicer tire.” The service department’s staff fluctuates with the seasons, but currently S & W Powersports has two full-time mechanics. Wilson notes during the busy season, they have three or four mechanics. Wilson’s uncle is the service manager, and he has been around machines his whole life. “He has pretty much seen it all,” Wilson said. “If Tim can’t figure out what is wrong with it, there aren’t many people who can. He has been with the dealership for at least four years now.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
S & W Powersports does some local advertising, but Wilson says word-of-mouth seems to be the dealership’s best marketing tactic.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Be as honest and straightforward as you can,” Wilson said. “I think that’s one thing that has helped our business grow. You don’t necessarily have to have the lowest price to get the sale. If we sold everything at cost, we couldn’t do the things in our parts or service departments that the customers deserve.”
— Karin Gelschus
S & W Powersports – Jasper, AL – Oct. 13, 2008