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Dealers anticipate customers who are ready for snow

By By Kate Swanson

Outlook for 2015-16 season strong thanks to product advancements

For snowmobile dealers across America two things can make or break a sale: Weather and sales techniques. Powersports Business talked with dealers across the Midwest, mountain and East regions in August to get their thoughts and expectations for the upcoming snow season.

Sleds like the 2016 Polaris 800 RMK Assault 155 figure to boost sales this winter.

Sleds like the 2016 Polaris 800 RMK Assault 155 figure to boost sales this winter.

Sam Girmonde, owner of DDS Motor Sports in Utica, N.Y., has a positive outlook looking at the 2016 models. “We’ve had a lot of activity in the past few weeks already,” he said. “It seems to be shaping up to be a decent year.”

For DDS, weather was an unpredictable factor in snowmobile sales. Last year, the dealership saw a combination of snow early on, none during peak winter months, and then more snow in late February/March. Despite the lack of flurries, the dealership’s snowcheck was successful, with Ski-Doo X and XRS packages generating the most sales.

Girmonde agreed that on the accessories and apparel side, every brand headed into the upcoming season aptly fits a snowmobiler’s needs. “Everything looks nice. Nothing really stands out among the brands, but they all look pretty good,” he added.

Another dealership that fields the weather’s effect on sales is Handlebar Motorsports out of Durango, Colo.

“The unpredictability of the weather is probably is the largest single factor,” said Gary Wilkinson, senior advisor at Handlebar. After a two years of disappointing snow conditions, customer interest has led to an optimistic outlook for 2016 sales. Handlebar had a great snowcheck turnout, due in part to new product updates. Handlebar’s strong preseason bodes well for the rest of 2016.

“Sales are going to be better than last year based on what we’ve sold so far,” Wilkinson said. “Anytime the consumer is excited about the changes that are made in the product, then they are more likely to participate in snowcheck.”

And in the Midwest, new Polaris sleds will be a key to driving traffic.

“We definitely expect to see an increase this year,” said Rob Determan, sales manager at Mason City Powersports in Iowa. “We’ve got a lot of new product with Polaris this year, and they’re in very high-demand.” While the dealership didn’t have as strong preseason sales as the previous year, Determan remains positive that an increase is in the future.

Although the weather didn’t play as prominent as a role for this Midwest dealership in 2014-15, Determan explained that the store will rely on the local economy and consumer interest to build up sales.

“We deal with a farming economy here, and the pricing is really low this spring. We didn’t sell a lot at preseason, so now I’m assuming a lot of those guys now have a better idea of where their crops are going to be,” Determan said. “We’re hoping they’re going to want to spend a little bit more money this fall.”

Mason City Powersports participates in snowcheck programs for all three of its top brands: Arctic Cat, Polaris and Yamaha. While last year’s snowcheck was a wide success, this year’s was down mostly due to the local economy. Determan said the Polaris RMK models have customers the most excited, while Yamaha and Arctic Cat are still on the radar.

“We’re a pretty big Polaris store; that’s the bulk of our business, so I would say that the Polaris model sales are what we are most anticipating. Also, if the sled sales are good, the parts and accessories will be good.”

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