Jul. 12, 2010 – The end of downsizing?

There’s an Oklahoma dealer attempting to take advantage of significantly reduced competition with a new and much larger store.

There’s a California dealership that is doing much the same, albeit on a smaller scale.

And in New York, a store is not only nearly doubling in size, but adding a prominent brand.

Pockets of expansion are entering back into the national dealership fold after months and months of store closures, belt-tightening and general downsizing. The expansions aren’t exactly erupting across the nation, but they are appearing.

In fact, such an example was front-page material in a recent business section of the Oklahoman: Dealer builds new store in rural Oklahoma.

Many miles to the West, a dealership under construction was making headlines in a local newspaper in Central California.

Here’s a look at those expansions, plus one more in New York state.

In Oklahoma

More than a year ago, Mark Morris, an enthusiast and business owner, purchased a single-line dealership in central Oklahoma, located some 30 minutes away Oklahoma City. His plan: Convert it to a multi-line dealership and take advantage of local dealership closures.

A few weeks ago, Morris and staff opened a modern, 20,000-square-foot facility that a local newspaper likened to a small Cabela’s, with its log cabin-style building and wildlife displays.

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The dealership now boasts Polaris and Kawasaki in addition to its flagship brand, Honda, and is considering taking on another prominent brand later this summer.

Morris, a two- and four-wheel enthusiast, has seen the service at dealerships in nearby rural areas and in larger metro areas deteriorate as staff sizes have shrunk to a third of what they were a few years ago.

“When you walk into one of those dealerships and nobody can wait on you, they (customers) are going to leave,” Morris said. “If they come into your dealership and they can’t get service work in and out of your door, they’re going to hunt somewhere else.”

A fully staffed crew at Morris Motorsports — approximately 18 staff members currently — was on hand at the Chickasha, Okla., store for its recent grand opening, which Morris said drew some 2,000 consumers.

Besides ensuring appropriate staff levels, Morris’ newer and larger store is using modern technology to lessen costs going forward. Outside the dealership are six wind turbines that Morris says will provide three-quarters of the store’s power.

“We bought every energy-efficient product we could put in here,” he said. “You bring your cost down there, not from your people.”

In California

Tulare Polaris, a single-line dealership in Central California, had a decision to make: continue leasing or build a larger dealership.

With confidence in its local market and reduced nearby competition, the dealership opted for the latter, says Ryan Hulsey, the store’s general manager.

The dealership is in the midst of building a new store that will not only feature a 5,000 square-foot showroom, but a separate 1,000 square-foot service department. The latter will be especially nice for the sales department, which now has to contend with air tools and other noise from the service department during its consumer interactions.

Hulsey says the decision to build a new, larger location was made easier as the store has seen its competition lessened by regional stores either closing or losing key brands.

“We’re small enough that we don’t have the overhead that has killed a lot of people,” he said. “We’re small enough so we’ve done OK with it.”

And while the new unit business hasn’t picked up considerably, the dealership is seeing business in other key profit centers. “It is slow, but we’re selling parts,” Hulsey said. “When we’re not selling a lot of machines, we’re doing a lot of service.”

In New York

An existing dealership has nearly doubled its size and is bringing on a new brand.

Sportline Power Products, located in eastern New York state, added 9,000 square feet to its dealership, owner Glenn Kelsey says.

“We probably had outgrown our space a couple of years ago,” said Kelsey, who began mulling expansion in the fall of 2008 before committing to the build last summer.

“I just have a general belief that this industry is going to rebound,” he said, “and our economy is going to rebound, and we needed the space regardless.”

The multiline dealership, located in Queensbury, N.Y., carries Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Polaris, Sea-Doo and Polaris and will start to carry Yamaha as well.

The dealership resides in an area that is drawing more of tech presence among its residents and potential Sportline customers.

“It’s a good, solid area that continues to see benefits,” Kelsey said.

The recently completed expansion not only expanded the store from 12,500 square feet to more than 21,000 square feet but also renovated areas of the existing footprint.

“We also renovated the existing parts and service areas in order to give a better presentation and the customer a better experience,” Kelsey said.

Part of the expansion area provides a separate area for new unit deliveries, a touch that has an impact, Kelsey says.

“The customers are definitely noticing the difference and feeling the difference,” he said. psb

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