Fighting the good fight, Good Times Motosports is powering through the down economic time. It hasn’t come without its costs, but with well-known technicians, Internet marketing and a few other strong business practices, the dealership is moving forward. Jeff Walker and his father, Sherman, bought the dealership in 1988 and have owned it ever since. They’re on their third, and final building, “unless things change and get a whole lot better,” said Jeff Walker, owner. The dealership sells Kawasaki, Suzuki, Ducati, Aprilia, Husqvarna and Moto Guzzi and has about 14 employees. They’ve had as many as 32, notes Walker.
Not only does a lack of lending options make it difficult for customers to get approved, but a concern is also the inconsistencies among financial institutions, says Walker. “One lender will say absolutely not, and another lender will offer you twice as much as what you were asking for.” Pre-warning consumers of approval rates has helped prevented some lost sales, says Walker. “We’ve done a good job of explaining up front how approvals are going,” he commented. “‘No matter how much you have your heart set on this motorcycle, you might not get approved for it. Be ready for a second alternative.”
“The most popular model in the past six months has been the Ninja 250,” Walker said. “That’s a bike you just can’t stop selling.” Kawasaki is the dealership’s most prevalent brand, adds Walker. Kawasaki is trailed by Suzuki and then Ducati. “Everything else is a small portion of what we do,” noted Walker.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Good Times Motorsports has pretty much lost the new, younger generation buyer. “They’re probably in more dire straights than we are,” Walker said of middle-aged consumers. “That customer base (Gen Y) doesn’t even walk through the door anymore.” A lot of the cruisers aren’t moving either, notes Walker. “Their riders probably have money,” he said, “but they’re not so apt to spend it right now.” Motorcycles that are moving, however, include everything between 250cc-650cc bikes. “Frame of mind is smaller means more economical,” said Walker.
PARTS AND SERVICE
The dealership’s technicians’ reputation has helped the store greatly. “Our technicians are long-term employees,” said Walker. “They’re well known in the industry. One of them is even a teacher at the local college to teach motorcycle repair.” The service and parts departments, however, haven’t missed the hard times of the economy. “Our parts department is probably the hardest hit in terms of employees,” said Walker. “We’ve had as many as seven, and we’re down to three. In our service department, we are lucky to still be fully staffed with five technicians. The only part that’s taken a hit there is the service writer staff. We had to reduce down to one.” Service was the dealership’s strong point through the summer and into fall, but the slow winter season hit harder than usual in December. One thing that has helped the service department is follow-ups. “They do a two-step program,” said Walker. “They follow up after the service work has been done. They also do a second follow-up for extended warranty sales.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Internet advertising has been the golden ticket for the dealership in terms of marketing. “Nothing else seems to draw much attention anymore,” Walker noted, adding the dealership does quite a few promotions through e-mail. Another way the dealership draws people into the store is through events. About once a quarter, Walker says they have things like open houses and bike giveaways, which attracts a lot of consumers.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“In this recession, don’t panic,” said Walker. “It isn’t all about price. It’s about selling your business for what it is. Everyone has too much inventory, so they think selling it for super cheap is the way to do it. People don’t understand why they should buy from you if you don’t explain it to them. Our sales staff has been trained for many years to sell the service department because the bike purchase is a one-time deal. You’re obviously going to see the service people a lot more than the salespeople. Introduce them to the service department, service manager when he’s available. Try to make them feel appreciated.”