Coming off of last year’s by-most-accounts miserable snowmobile season, Steamboat Powersports brass knew that something needed to be done to generate excitement for the 2012-13 season.
Consider the debut of their Snowmobile Swap Meet at the dealership’s parking lot in Steamboat Springs, Colo., a roaring success. Customers could bring their sled, parts and gear and sell it on the spot. The dealership hosted hourly giveaways inside the store, and winners had to be present. The grand poobah giveaway was a trip to Las Vegas.
In short, the October event set a record for the largest one-day crowd inside the dealership. General manager Jason Stanhope and finance manager Josh Clark offered their take on the event to Powersports Business readers.
PSB: How did the idea for the Swap Meet originate?
Steamboat Powersports: We’re kind of isolated where we’re located, and after years of going to snowmobile shows in the metro areas, we thought it would be beneficial to our customers if we had a show of our own. We’re not logistically in a spot for folks to get to the big shows, and we sell three different brands of sleds, so we decided to do one.
PSB: How did you market it?
SP: We put more effort into social media, email blasts. We didn’t spend as much on radio or newspaper as we may have in the past on an open house type of event. We executed on social media and email. We were hearing from folks a week or two before the event that they were coming and excited about it. We have not done much newspaper or radio at all, because it doesn’t bring people in the door in this market.
PSB: Jason, what was it like on game day?
SP: We did have a lot of folks show up with used snowmobiles, and quite a few with parts and trinkets. We had more sellers than we had buyers, but in the four years I’ve been here we’ve never had that many people at our location at one time. We marked off about 80 percent of the parking lot for their trucks and trailers. Parking was an issue.
PSB: How did you get them inside the store, as opposed to checking out the Swap Meet items?
SP: We did giveaways every hour, and if you wanted to be involved in that you had to be inside the store to win. So that created a steady stream of getting folks inside the door. And we had a Vegas vacation giveaway that they had to register for inside. We went through a couple of hundred hot dogs and hamburgers, 40 large pizzas. It was a very strong turnout.
PSB: Were the sellers your own customers, or were they new faces?
SP: Most of the folks that showed up either as sellers or to buy had been in the store before, but there were definitely fresh faces that we had never seen before. There were a lot of sales in the parking lot, and we might have lost a sale or two in the lot. But the folks who did sell something most often then came in and bought something from us. The magic number for sled sales in the parking lot was in the $5,000 range.
PSB: Did you have enough staff on hand to handle the crowd?
SP: We’re short-staffed as it is, so we had some volunteers help with sign-ups and taking care of registrations, and help with cooking. It was a lot of people to handle. I can only hope that next year will be as good a turnout, but we couldn’t have handled any more than we did that day from a sales standpoint. We sold a few used sleds, took a few deposits and sold a few new sleds.
PSB: I’ll ask you the same question I ask other snowmobile dealers: What’s the feeling for this season?
SP: Coming off the winter we had last year, a lot of folks are skeptical. Part of the idea behind this event was to drive some excitement about winter. Right now people are waiting for snow before they buy. If snow happens, business will happen.
PSB: What’s your inventory status?
SP: We’re very clean. We did surprisingly well with the poor winter we had. A lot of it was ordering right.
PSB: What types of product were you moving during the Swap Meet?
SP: We focused on moving outdated inventory, not major units but parts. We had some extreme prices on soft goods and hard parts that had not sold in the last year. We did a decent volume of business. It wasn’t a cash cow, but we got rid of some dead inventory.