Aug. 9, 2010 – Putting two faces on a tremendously difficult topic

Most journalists will grudgingly admit we’re much more comfortable telling you what happened rather than explain why you should know it happened.
We’re investigators. We’re storytellers. We’re not psychologists. We don’t feel the need to rationalize everything.
That doesn’t mean we don’t consider why we should or should not write on a particular topic. That happens everyday. But we certainly rarely, if ever, explain our motivations in doing so. We hope, rather, that the article itself will do the talking, will define why the selected topic is worthy of your time and attention.
That may not be enough, however, with this edition’s front-page piece on an Oregon couple, the former owners of an award-winning Ducati dealership in Bend, Ore. The couple, as you’ll read in the article, have experienced the rise and fall of owning a dealership in a locale that has suffered mightily at the hands of the national economy. They are now members of an enlarging group of “Outsiders” that can no longer rely on the industry to support themselves and their families.
Some of you, I know, will throw up your arms and simply ask the question, “Why?” For what reason should Powersports Business call such attention to bad news? Don’t we get enough of that in our local media and on the national newscasts? Do we really need to cast a spotlight on the downtrodden when the lot of us left here is dealing with continued weakness in consumer spending? Do we really, seriously, need more depressing news?
All valid questions, and ones we spent much time debating here.
Although we’ve certainly chronicled the downturn in retail sales and how the industry’s major players have reacted to it, we have mostly focused on sharing ways to improve our businesses. In fact, it has been our No. 1 focus and the biggest change you’ve witnessed from Powersports Business in the past 18 months.
In that time, we’ve created a dealership education conference & expo that’s sole purpose is providing a means to improve dealership business performance.
We’ve started “Industry Insiders,” a blog site that has become the online watercooler for industry members to discuss different business tactics and initiatives.
We’ve worked with our partner Cycle Trader to start a Webinar series that examines — at no cost to dealers or the industry — how to drive sales and performance in different key profit centers.
We’ve created a twice-a-year contest that provides dealerships with free training at their stores courtesy of our industry partners Tucker Rocky Distributing and V-SEPT.
Improving dealership profitability has been, and remains, our paramount focus. And we are certainly not alone in that endeavor. It is heartening to hear earnings reports from some of the industry’s largest players — Harley-Davidson and Polaris Industries to name two — now include updates on dealer inventory levels and dealer closure numbers.
The stability of the dealer network has always been of importance to the industry, but it has never been a more vital subject than it is today.
But how to adapt to today’s treacherous retail climate is not the only matter of importance in front of us. We’re in the midst of a resizing of the industry. Some would say the heavy lifting, the aftereffects of the mortgage debacle and its demoralizing impact on our nation’s consumer confidence, are behind us. Others aren’t so sure.
Regardless, we as an industry have changed. We’ve gotten smaller. In many cases, incredibly so. Perhaps more focused. Perhaps better at what we’re really all about.
But in doing so, there has been tremendous loss. Loss of personnel, loss of income and worse yet, loss of dreams. The wisest of us would search for anything to be gained from these losses. And for that to happen, we have to agree to do more than just throw out dealer closure percentages as cavalier as some Wall Street analysts do with the daily ticker. We have to look closer.
We have to stomach the difficult story
of a man and his wife and how their dreams couldn’t overcome a dramatic collapse of their local economy.
We have to realize that, sometimes, there is no happy ending. And that such a trying story is worth the telling.
educational opportunities
I can’t quite remember his exact words, but Fred Fox of LeMans Corps. once told me something like this as we were walking around one of his company’s trade shows, “Remember, free advice is usually worth what you paid for it.”
Then, of course, he proceeded to give me some advice.
It’s funny even now because it shows the modesty of the founder and builder of one of the industry’s largest corporations.
In turn, it’s now my chance to offer up the same advice — with the same caveat — to
dealerships large and small. There are two educational opportunities for you and your staff that if you haven’t taken advantage of, or even looked into, then you’re seriously missing out.
Powersports Business is working with Cycle Trader, PowerSports Network and Traffic Log Pro to provide free Webinars on incredibly important business topics. We started with the preowned market, then touched on lead management and CRMs and in the weeks to come will discuss ways to improve e-commerce.
Any industry insider will tell you that the
e-commerce and preowned parts of our business are the two areas that have sustained, if not grown, during the past two difficult years.
Additionally, we, in conjunction with the industry’s market share-leading dealer service providers, are putting together a dealer educational event in October, Profit Xcelerator. Get full details at www.powersportsbusiness.com/PSBCE/index.cfm.
We’re extremely confident these events will be worth much more than what you paid for them. psb
Neil Pascale is editor-in-chief of
Powersports Business. He can be reached at
npascale@affinitygroup.com.

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