From the Editor: Will recent positive trends bring strong year for dealers?

We’ve heard plenty of optimism heading into the riding season, starting with strong consumer attendance at the IMS shows. Moving along to events tailored to dealers — first at the Tucker Rocky | Biker’s Choice Dealer and Brand Expo and then at the Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties National Vendor Presentation in Indianapolis — there’s plenty of reason to believe that 2017 could take a step forward for powersports retailers. 

As for the start to the year, the numbers don’t lie. One of the truest readings our industry offers is the monthly Same Store Sales report provided to our readers by CDK Lightspeed. Retail data from more than 1,600 dealers shows an impressive four-month run. In fact, we’re on a four-month run during which overall parts, service, major unit and overall sales have been on the positive side of the ledger. That’s right, from November 2016 through February 2017, dealerships have experienced average sales growth of 3.65 percent. Taking a closer look, November was up 6.7 percent overall, December 6.2 percent, January 0.5 percent and February 1.2 percent. It’s the longest such ride of months of success since 2015, when June-October all rated overall positive. 

That’s quite a turnaround from the previous four months, which show four consecutive down months (July minus 4.5 percent, August minus 0.5 percent, September minus 0.7 percent and October minus 5.2 percent). That was a time not so long ago, when the public “snapped [their] wallets shut,” as our headline aptly described from a dealer. 

Major unit sales, however, remain a struggle. Lightspeed data shows back-to-back declining sales months, compared to the year-ago month. And while the drops were minimal at 0.8 percent in January and 0.9 percent in February, they were declines nonetheless. November and December, on the other hand, had major unit sales gains of 6.5 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively. In fact, in 12 of the past 18 months, major unit sales have declined compared to the year-ago month.

As we know, and learned from dealers at the distributor shows in serach of the best products for the upcoming season, parts and service are driving much of the retail success. Service sales have increased in 13 of the past 18 months. The oh-so-small overall sales growth in January and February was boosted by parts sales, which grew by 6.8 and 17.7 percent, respectively. Parts hasn’t had two monster months like that since at least 2015. 

In short, when we look at the last four months, 13 of the 16 categories (by month for parts, service, major unit and overall sales) are showing up arrows. You’d have to go back to July-October 2015 to find the same growth over four months. With bikes on the roads in Minnesota in February, that direction bodes well for 2017.

Nifty 50 winners showcased

We’re proud to start relaying some behind-the-scenes photos of our 2017 Nifty 50 product winners hard at work.

If you were on the team that developed one of our Nifty 50 products, be sure to send me a photo similar to the ones here. We want to show off the talent that went into producing the products. 

Thanks to Thomas Hornbake for sharing this photo of Katie Kelly, in customer service at S&B Filters. Kelly is at the S&B warehouse next to a Polaris RZR 1000 with the 2017 Nifty 50-wininng Particle Separator installed.

Farrah Bauer, sales/marketing and advertising manager, and Cole Anderson, racer support, sales and customer service for RK Excel America Inc., show off the company’s 2017 Nifty 50-winning Premium Motocross Chains.

Dave McMahon is editor in chief of Powersports Business. Contact him at 763/383-4411 or



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