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Side-by-sides a sure thing year-round

By Liz Keener

Ray’s Sport & Cycle gets boost from Quadna event

For dealerships that have stores in the northern parts of the U.S., like Ray’s Sport & Cycle in Grand Rapids, Minn., summers can be short, and winters can be long but not always snowy. So there’s a clear winner when it comes to year-round sales — ATVs and side-by-sides.

“We sell ATVs and side-by-sides year-round,” Ray’s general manager Jake Wedge told Powersports Business. “Sea-Doos are seasonal; watercraft is seasonal; snowmobiles are seasonal; motorcycles are seasonal. Motorcycle sales across the country are down, let alone long winters we’ve had the past two winters and short, rainy springs and then a short summer. So motorcycle sales have tapered off, but we do great numbers with ATVs in the three brands we carry and the side-by-sides, so that’s a big chunk of our business.”

That’s why it was a no-brainer for the dealership to send staff 20 minutes south to High Lifter Quadna Mud Nationals in Hill City, Minn. And the dealership made its name hard to miss. With a booth full of units and PG&A front and center in the vendor area and large flags protruding from Ray’s units throughout the park, Ray’s was on a mission to be seen.

“I spent a lot of money this year on flags and put them on the machines to go drive around,” Wedge said. “I’m surprised at how much traffic I got at my booth, but my theory was to go drive around and have people see the machine. I’m not necessarily demoing it, trying to get it dirty where you’re going to go beat on it. It’s just, ‘Well, I haven’t see that one,’ or ‘I didn’t know Yamaha made a Viking that big, or a three-passenger,’ or ‘I didn’t know Can-Am made the X mr in a Maverick.’ They’ll stop me and ask questions versus me waiting for them to come into the store or come into the booth. I’m driving around, and they can stop me whenever.”

By the afternoon of the first day of the event, the dealership’s investment into the Qudna Mud Nationals was already showing returns. Wedge sold three units in the first day, along with a variety of obsolete PG&A.

“It’s a chance to move some old inventory, T-shirts and hats and stuff because the new order program are coming up, and we’re advertising,” Wedge said.

Ray’s Sport & Cycle of Grand Rapids, Minn., used large flags affixed to its units to draw attention to its dealership at Quadna Mud Nationals in Hill City, Minn.

Ray’s Sport & Cycle of Grand Rapids, Minn., used large flags affixed to its units to draw attention to its dealership at Quadna Mud Nationals in Hill City, Minn.

He credited some of his unit sales to Can-Am’s on-site demo program, which allowed more riders to get seat time than if Wedge would have provided demos himself.

“To do it right, you’ve got to have the team that does it. You’ve got to have the lead guy, keep everybody in a group, go through the rules. Everybody’s got to have the proper attire — helmets, boots, long-sleeve shirt, pants. And a chase guy in case there’s a problem. And then they’ve got their staff and technicians and gas. The amount of numbers they go through, I just wouldn’t have the manpower to go through it, or the machines, so yeah it’s big. They do it; it’s great,” he said. “Give me 1,000 people going through, whether they’re from my area or not, it’s good for them. But if they’re people in the area that are on the edge of what to buy, they can actually go and try it instead of just in a parking lot or around the grass or something. Real world, it sells. You put butts on seats, it sells.”

Wedge knows the value of demos. Ray’s Sport & Cycle participates in Can-Am and Yamaha off-road demo programs and even allows prospects to demo Honda units in inventory.

“We’re fortunate that we have a snowmobile trail that comes to our back door, so whether it’s snowmobile or ATV, they can go down that, and there’s a gravel pit. Take it down, it’s about a mile, come back. Two miles on a brand-new machine, if he didn’t like it, I clean it back up. It’s not damaged; I can still sell it. If somebody wants to test drive something, they’re spending $8,000 — or $20,000 — you’re going to test ride before you buy,” he said.

For the past two years, the Can-Am Commander has been the No. 1-selling side-by-side at Ray’s, but customers are also showing interest in other models as well.

“Surprisingly the Honda Pioneer 700 four-seater, I cannot get enough of them. The two-seater does fairly well, but the four-seater’s in demand — price point; economical; trick machine; you can convert it from two-passenger, three-passenger, four-passenger, back to a box; still somewhat compact; utility. It’s not a sport machine. If you want a sport utility, you get the Can-Am. If you want the utility trail ride, you get the Honda,” he said, adding that Yamaha’s Viking is also picking up traction.

Though Quadna Mud Nationals gave Wedge an opportunity to market his business and sell some units along with PG&A, portions of the events served as somewhat of a vacation for him and his family.

“Being the general manager for Ray’s Sport & Cycle, I have always been into ATVs. I’ve worked there 27 years, so this is a great way to grow the sport, get more trails in Minnesota, get more people interacting. It’s a fun event,” he said. “This year I brought the wife and kid, so we can camp, spend the night. I’m done at 5 or 6 [p.m.] or whatever, and then we can go for a ride. Otherwise you’re at work six days a week.”


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