Nov. 12, 2007 – Catering to holiday shoppers

By Neil Pascale
It won’t come gift-wrapped with a nice, fancy bow on top, but neither is it out of the question this holiday season.
“It” is the holiday shopper, the non-enthusiast who doesn’t know the difference between a GSX-R and a GI Joe. But, according to some industry experts these types of consumers are being driven to powersports dealerships now more so than at any other time of the year seeking gifts for their enthusiast relatives.
“It’s more acceptable for nonriders to go into a (dealership) looking for that wonderful gift,” said Jennifer Robison, a retail environmental specialist for national distributor Tucker Rocky. “Every grandmother, every aunt, every mother wants that perfect gift for their son or husband. So you need to be prepared for that because it’s not the same market it was 10-plus years ago.”
Powersports Business sought out retail merchandising experts to provide tips on how dealers can take better advantage of these first-time customers as well as looked at retail surveys to gauge the holiday shopping season.
The result is a host of ideas that could lead to additional sales this year plus a reminder for the next yuletide: Start your holiday marketing earlier. By the time you read this, 40 percent of consumers will already have begun their holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation, a retail trade association.
Also consider adding a new, annual expense to your holiday marketing budget, one that could dramatically improve holiday sales: an interior decorator.
“It’s more than just throwing up Christmas trees and throwing on that annoying music,” Robison said of creating a retail environment that will be friendly to that first-time store visitor, not to mention entice them to remain in the store beyond a minute or two.
“You want to force people to walk around the store and shop a little bit,” Robison said, “but you have to do the work.”
One device department stores have created to keep the consumer enticed is price-point tables, where different merchandise is grouped together under a certain dollar amount, say $20 and under or $50 and under.
“It really is looking at how department stores do it,” Robison said of the first step in what dealers should do to create a pleasing holiday environment.
Jim Rasmus, president and founder of Retail Design Associates, agrees.
“It’s their first line of education on how to dress up (a store),” Rasmus said of both department stores and big box stores, like Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops.
Rasmus, who travels extensively, said he has noticed more powersports dealerships have been embracing the holiday shopper. Powersports manufacturers have taken notice.
“Overall we see growth during the holiday season,” said Brad Kruckenberg, the general manager for Moose Racing. “Fashion and impulse-buy items sell well while staple items hold their own.”
Phil Davy, Icon’s brand manager, said he has not seen a big increase in street apparel and street helmet sales around the holidays.
“However it needs to be noted that Icon dealers who sell mail order have huge increases around that time,” Davy said. “We can only guess this means that when dealers back off their street inventory, the mail order dealers get more share of sales than they normally do during the rest of the year.”
Early indicators point to a successful holiday shopping season, although not necessarily a record-breaking one.
A survey of more than 7,800 consumers found holiday shoppers will likely spend on average more than $815, a 3.7 percent increase over the previous year.
“Shoppers will be a little more conservative with their spending as they become more aware of the softness in the economy,” said Tracy Mullin, the CEO of National Retail Federation, which conducted the retail survey.
To capture more of that $815 pie, it’s not a bad idea to learn more about the holiday consumer. Retail surveys over the past few years have confirmed common knowledge: there is definitely a difference between the sexes when it comes to shopping. Men are more apt to wait until the last minute to do their holiday shopping.
“We’re the laziest of the bunch,” Rasmus said.
Meaning dealerships should consider running promotions aimed at women shoppers earlier in the holiday season.
Rasmus related one such promotion that a Harley-Davidson dealership did that more than paid off.
The dealership used its database to figure out its top 50 women consumers, then invited them to a special, after-hours shopping event complete with entertainment. The result, Rasmus said, was more than $75,000 in sales.
“If they would not have done that, they would have never captured those sales,” he said. “Those women would have gone somewhere else and bought their significant others something else. They probably would have bought a smidgen of that had they had not had that free time themselves, without the kids hanging on them, dad peeking over their shoulder and so on.”
Making it easy for the shopping to occur, especially for the first-time store visitor, is crucial. To that end, Rasmus recommends dealers adopt a practice that is similar to a bridal registry, where a kiosk is set up at the front of the store with a “Christmas Wish List” book. There, young and old alike can write down their wishes, which can then be viewed by relatives when they visit the store.
“Make (shopping) a lot easier for those people that don’t use the product but yet their relatives do,” Rasmus said.
Another key to holiday shopping: follow the retail industry trends. Last year, the sale of gift cards increased substantially and this year such presents are atop consumers’ wish lists, according to the National Retail Federation survey. In fact, nearly 54 percent of consumers put gift cards on their wish lists, eclipsing such traditional favorites as clothing and accessories, books and CDs.
Of course, the key to holiday shopping, experts agree, is getting consumers into the buying mood with the right retail environment. Part of accomplishing that is giving your staff the creative license to step forward with merchandising ideas.
Robison goes a step further, believing dealers should seek outside help by hiring interior decorators. These are professionals who often decorate large offices or local hospitals. Robison believes dealers could be looking at $500 to hire such professionals.
“It will be worth every penny, especially if they’re going to help you create that feeling,” she said.
Dealers also could consider contacting universities or vocational schools that offer merchandising programs to help enliven their retail presentations, something that needs to change consistently.
Rasmus notes that a dealership’s competitors for the holiday shopping pie — department and big box stores — change their retail presentations weekly during this critical period to capture the consumer’s interest and just as importantly, keep their attention.
As Rasmus said, “If you watched Monday Night Football last night, are you going to watch it again tonight?”
Nor is the consumer likely to spend any real time looking at retail presentations they saw last time they visited the store or that don’t possess any creativity.
And that combination isn’t likely to lead
to a merry Christmas for powersports industry retailers.

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