Augusta, Ga., is a fairly urban area with about a half million people, and Joey Hopkins, general manager, says the dealership takes advantage of that by focusing on local consumers. “We’re not trying to be a volume seller,” he said. “We’re really trying to concentrate on our area. If we get an occasional person who’s out of our area, that’s one thing, but we’re not trying to advertise to those people. (Local) people bring you more customers. It’s the word-of-mouth thing.” Augusta Kawasaki Suzuki obviously carries Kawasaki and Suzuki, but they also carry KTM, KYMCO and Schwinn. Hopkins says the majority of the dealership’s sales are motorcycles, which makes up 65 percent. Pre owned vehicles make up roughly 10 percent.
The retail sales trends in the auto industry have captured Hopkins attention. “It seems like we have some similarities. I try to pay attention and watch what they’re doing and how they’re reacting to (the decrease in sales),” he said. “I see if we can learn anything from that, so we can make a better reaction to a very similar situation.”
Without question, Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 is the hottest ticket for Augusta Kawasaki Suzuki. Hopkins says the combination of price (MSRP: $3,999), value and the dealership’s customer base, make it a big seller. “That’s hands down a winner,” he said. “It’s always going to be the most popular bike we have.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
“They quit buying,” Hopkins said. On a more positive note, the dealership counts its floor traffic every day and for the month of April, it increased over the prior month. But compared to last year, Augusta Kawasaki Suzuki’s floor traffic is still down about 50 percent as far as volume.
PARTS AND SERVICE
Both the parts and service departments are areas the dealership is focusing more on since its new unit sales are down. As a result, it has seen an increase in business. Hopkins says they promote both departments within the store. “We’re trying to make sure we’re out selling at the counter and making sure we’re asking for the sale,” he said. “Ask them to get that second item on the ticket.” As far as the dealership’s total volume, parts and accessories make up about 10 percent of sales.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
The dealership did primarily print and radio advertising until Hopkins decided to do a little experiment. Hopkins says for the month of April, he did zero advertising, took everything away. “I’m going to try to figure out a baseline for business,” he wondered at the time. “What’s driving people in here? I took away everything except the Web site, all the print, all the radio, everything.” The odd thing about it, however, was that the dealership’s floor traffic increased during that time period. “I had a feeling it wasn’t driving the traffic,” he said. “It taught me that the stuff I was spending money on wasn’t really doing much.” Hopkins isn’t giving up on advertising altogether. He says now he’s looking to do more focused marketing efforts with things like direct mail. “Have something that can provide detailed information on households,” he noted. “Who would our real target audience be?” Another area that wasn’t working, which Hopkins discovered by accident, was the phone book. He says he missed the deadline. “When I first realized this I was bummed out, but then I realized if they want a phone number, they’re going to Google you anyway.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Right now you really have to stay focused on the people who are coming through the door,” Hopkins said.
— Karin Gelschus