PWC Power Profile – Seminole Powersports

1200 Rinehart Road
Sanford, FL 32771
A Corporation
42,500-sq.-ft. dealership founded in 1982; at present location since just before Bike Week (early March) this year, 6.5 miles from previous store. Carries Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Polaris, and Bombardier (ATVs and Sea-Doo PWC). Part of a small automotive/powersports group. Largest-selling segment is streetbike, closely followed by ATV. Sells about 200 watercraft per year. 72 employees.
The greatest concern of Kirby Mullins, dealer principal/general manager, is “supply-and-demand-only ordering once per year. Typically we have too much of one product and not enough of another. Specific to the state of Florida my concerns would be insurance laws and the helmet law repeal. It’s a personal concern; I hate to see someone riding stupidly and not have their head protected. Motorcycle-related deaths are going up, and I just can’t help but think that’s part of the reason.”
Sizzling at Seminole: the Honda VTX line of cruisers. “In personal watercraft, the bestsellers encompass two ends of the spectrum: the economy Yamaha VX110 Deluxe three-seater and the high-end Sea-Doo RXT musclecraft,” notes Mullins. “In ATVs, the Honda Rincon is a really hot seller. And all the sportbikes are hot, including the Yamaha R1 and R6, the Honda CBR, and the Kawasaki ZX line.” In accessories, Seminole sells a lot of bolt-on accessories and riding gear. “We have our own line of Seminole Powersports apparel, along with Fox, Thor, and Alpine Star. I’m really proud of our parts department, which is up about 150% in sales over last year. We’re growing PG&A/service into about $5 million per year in sales, so it’s very formidable.”
Mullins says that the average buyer is between the ages of 34 and 54, and male (about 87% of the customer base). “Of course, the female has a big influence on the purchase, but it’s typically in her husband’s or boyfriend’s name. The northern part of Seminole County is densely populated, so we don’t have a lot of rural riding area for ATVs. But we do have a lot of waterways, like the St. John’s River, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Atlantic ocean. We’re between Orlando and Daytona Beach on the I-4 corridor, so during Bike Week we’re positioned right.”
“Obviously no-wake zones for the manatees are a big headache. And these slow-moving water creatures are not indigenous to Florida-they were brought from the West Indies. The big off-road issue right now is the closing of the Ocala National Forest’s south end. ATVs and off-road motorcycles have been temporarily banned from hundreds of thousands of acres that we used to ride. A lot of folks are up in arms. We’re calling every congressman and senator we know to get that overturned.”
“We have one service manager, three service advisors, a shop foreman, and 14 technicians,” says Mullins. Is it a challenge to stay up to date with so many marques? “It is, but the manufacturers are doing a bit better job. Recalls obviously cause some pressure; after all, everybody wants to ride something that they just bought. The ‘good’ problem we’re facing is that our vehicle sales are up 40%, which creates more opportunities for parts and service.
“Since the move this year we’ve increased our service staff from seven to 14 technicians, but our business has almost doubled as well. We still have a backlog, and are still trying to get parts in a timely manner. I came from the car business, where the NAPA store or the friendly dealer down the street is more than happy to sell you a part. In the powersports industry we have to order it, and if we need it in a hurry, freight is very expensive. Sometimes you can pass that along to the consumer, but sometimes you can’t. It’s a challenge to under-promise and over-deliver.”
When PSB spoke to Mullins, Seminole was getting PWC out of storage for customers. “Everybody wants them yesterday. We have a pickup and delivery service; sometimes we charge, sometimes we don’t, depending on how far away. But we don’t do mobile repairs. We’re fairly close to the river, so we try to test everything that’s had a mechanical issue, especially the engine.”
Mullins says Seminole does “a lot of guerilla marketing. We are always at the track with our signed 20-foot trailer in support of our all-terrain vehicle and off-road motorcycle race team. And we have a pre-Daytona Bike Week warm-up, an ATV rally at Halloween, and a PWC demo in the St. John’s River a couple of times per year so customers can ride before they buy.” In a trend we’re seeing, Seminole has an on-line “store” on eBay. “eBay is getting so strong, but more importantly it helps us to liquidate a lot of our aged inventory. We’ll put parts that are six to eight months old on eBay and sell to the highest bidder to get them off the shelf.”
“Number one, capitalize on building your brands,” advises Mullins. This includes the marques a dealer stocks as well as his dealership itself. “Second, your employees are your greatest asset or your biggest weakness. They need to be as customer-friendly as possible. We’re in a fun industry that is driven by enthusiasts. A lot of folks who work here are enthusiasts, and it has been a challenge for me to bring in that businessman mentality. We want the dealership to have a warm and fuzzy feel, but we need to do everything to make it convenient for customers to do business with us. We’re open seven days per week, until eight o’clock, on Sundays, on most holidays. We’ve mirrored our hours on a mall one mile away. After all, the only reason anybody comes to this part of town is to spend money. We still have a good time with our employees and try to build morale.”

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