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Michigan sled dealer reports ‘banner year’

By Liz Keener

Snowmobile sales up in all departments; rentals, too

To say Travis Conners, owner of Indian River Sports Center in Indian River, Mich., has been pleased with this year’s snowmobile season would be an understatement.

“We actually had a banner year. It’s probably the best year we’ve had since 2003,” he told Powersports Business.

Conners went as far as to say the season has been one of the best in the two decades that he’s owned the dealership. With a 2 1/2- to 3-foot base of snow in his area and that amount or more in the nearby Upper Penninsula, Indian River Sports Center’s customers are putting a staggering amount of miles on their snowmobiles, leading to increased sales across all departments. Many of Conners’ top customers are reporting mileages of 3,000-4,000 on their sleds in this season alone, virtually doubling a normal year.

“Typically in a winter, we get 1,500 — maybe 2,000 [miles] — from our high-end riders,” he explained.

The dealership has seen a boost from those regulars, along with visiting snowmobilers, who stop by the store, located just off Interstate 75, on the way to the Upper Penninsula.

“We’ve had more floor traffic, and it’s even during the week,” Conners said, adding that the dealership is open late on Fridays to accommodate out-of-towners.

Snowmobile sales are up 50-70 percent over the 2012-13 season for the Arctic Cat and Yamaha dealership. Service has increased 20-30 percent, and overall snowmobile-related purchases have grown 50 percent.

“New sled sales are up; clothing’s up; parts is up; service is up. It’s all across the board — everything has spiked,” Conners reported.

Along with the snow has come bitter cold, which has kept some people off the trails. However, many have simply stocked up on more cold-weather gear. Indian River Sports Center is Michigan’s largest 509 and Klim dealer, and Klim sales have doubled in-house and at shows this season.

Indian River Sports Center in Indian River, Mich., tore up its parking lot (shown) and added new asphalt just before its busy snowmobile season.

Indian River Sports Center in Indian River, Mich., tore up its parking lot (shown) and added new asphalt just before its busy snowmobile season.

While increased sales storewide have been a boost to the dealership, management is concerned about what the results mean for the 2014-15 season and beyond. Those who bought sleds this season are unlikely to buy again in the near future, and riders are investing in higher-quality gear, meaning they won’t need replacements as frequently.

“There’s pros and cons to all this because with the snow this year, what do we do next year; do we order big?” Conners said.

Despite these concerns, he was positive heading into Yamaha and Arctic Cat’s dealer meetings in February, and the dealership was expected to make strong orders. The store likes to have some models left over for the summer and into the following season, but has already had to add to its lineup to fuel this year’s demand, with about half a dozen sleds added in early February. About 15 sleds are expected to carry over into the next season, a reasonable number compared to the 40 that stuck around the season before.

And though Indian River Sports Center is already looking forward to 2014-15, it’s clear that this season still has returns to give.

“We’re even booked with our snowmobile rental business,” Conners said. “We’re booked into March, and we’ve never done that in 20 years of renting sleds.”


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