January doesn’t offer much in way of excitement for Milwaukee-area motorcyclists. With snow, ice and salt on the ground and frigid cold whipping through the air, it’s unlikely many bikers, if any, set out on two wheels during the first month of the year — especially this year.
So to spur sales and get customers thinking about riding season again, House of Harley-Davidson hosted its 11th annual Premier Indoor Bike Show Jan. 24-25 at the dealership. The show is purposefully hosted each year during the weekend between the NFL’s championship games and the Super Bowl.
“Just all around it’s a great traffic builder in a very cold time of year, and I think it gives people something to do to remind them there will be life after winter,” House of Harley president John Schaller said.
The event features 25-30 motorcycles on display, along with local vendors, from motorcycle- and non-motorcycle-related companies alike. And though the show has been going on for more than a decade, it’s always evolving, with this year’s event offering a new Showcase class for builders who wanted to show their bikes, but didn’t want to complete for the cash and prizes awarded to category winners — including House of Harley employees. The dealership’s new P&A manager also helped the dealership bring in new bikes never seen by show attendees.
“We really enjoyed a lot of fresh, new entries this year, which was exciting, and we had bikes coming in that we’d never seen before,” marketing manager Sarah Maio said.
Bikes are judged and awarded prizes in categories including: Stock Bagger, Modified Bagger, Pro Class, Trike, Antique, Swing Arm, Rigid Frame, Barn-Find and Lowrider Bicycle. This allows anyone from the at-home builder to the professional builder to compete side-by-side. House of Harley allows any make or model in, with this year’s show including a Ural and Indian among the Harleys and others.
Food, drink and vendors
Among the vendors were a home improvement company, a custom bike painter, an apparel company and a riding club. Food and beer were also sold. The vendors, Schaller says, add to the draw of the event and bring more people in the doors.
“I think people are happy and in a good mood,” he said. “There’s smiles; there’s beer, and with the vendors, depending on what you’re looking for and who the vendors are on those days, it creates more opportunity for people to see stuff.”
Bands also play each night, with Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys taking the stage Friday night, and Spoiled Rotten closing the event on Saturday.
The Indoor Bike Show lasts two days for a couple reasons. First, two days allow for more visitors to access the show, especially as the 120-spot parking lot and nearby streets fill up in a hurry. And second, the show takes two days to set up, not including the preparation time that goes into sifting through builders’ applications and booking vendors.
“We take a lot of time and effort to move stuff around and to get things ready for this, and to do it in one night would be a colossal waste of time,” Schaller said.
To set up for the show, all 120-plus showroom bikes are moved into the service department, meaning the service bays must be cleaned and cleared of bikes in advance. The show bikes also have to be rolled in, and vendors have to be given time to set up.
But in the end, all the effort is worth it. On top of seeing a boost in PG&A sales, House of Harley was able to sell nine bikes during the show.
“Any time we can sell nine bikes on a Friday, Saturday in January, we’re happy about that. Until Milwaukee can move to Miami, it’s a struggle to get people in here in the winter,” Schaller said.
Salespeople are able to make their pitches while people are excited about the upcoming riding season. They can also explain that the new and pre-owned selection is at its peak pre-season and an early sale gives the riders more time to get their new bikes prepared for spring.
“Every one of our bike buyers spends some time with the chrome consultant, and we have more time in the winter to accessorize bikes than we do at any time in the year,” Schaller said, adding that the dealership will also store buyers’ bikes until the spring.
Though selling motorcycles is the dealership’s ultimate goal, the purpose of the Indoor Bike Show is also to meet new customers and build loyalty with those who have already purchased from House of Harley.
“The winter show is really directed at anyone who wants to see cool bikes when there’s not really a lot going on a Friday or a Saturday,” Schaller said.
As the show continues to be successful — with vendors already asking to sign up for next year — House of Harley-Davidson will continue to host it annually. Schaller says it’s the one event he’s discovered that can spur sales in January.
“Honestly it’s important in my life and I think the life of the dealership and probably the life of the industry that we have people thinking about motorcycles year-round,” he said.
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