Dec. 27, 2010 – Survey finds mixed early season sled sales

Dealers are reporting mixed results from early season snowmobile sales, according to a national survey.
New unit sales appear down from a year ago, but used sales are trending in a more positive direction, the survey found.
The survey, conducted by Powersports Business, was taken in mid-December and includes U.S. and Canadian dealers. One hundred dealerships took part in the survey.
Results varied significantly by region.
In the Midwest, for example, 60 percent of dealers were reporting either increased or similar new unit sales from a year ago. At the time of the survey, almost seven of 10 dealers said they either had plenty of snow on the ground or were within driving distance of the snow. The survey was taken days before a powerful storm left as much as 20 inches of snow in the upper Midwest.
Snow conditions were more mixed in the East, where only 20 percent reported favorable snowfall. About the same percentage reported lighter-than-normal snow conditions. Perhaps not surprisingly then more than 60 percent of dealers in the East reported decreased new unit sales as compared to a year ago.
Mostly unfavorable snowfall also was reported in the Northwest, where nearly half of the dealers reported lighter-than-normal snowfall. New units sales were mostly down in this region, although nearly one-third did report consistent sales with a year ago.
Better conditions were cited in the West, where nearly seven out of every 10 dealers reported either plenty of snow or snow within driving distance. New unit sales there showed the biggest percentage increase over a year ago, with 40 percent of dealers reporting improved new sled sales. Only one in three dealers there say their new unit sales are down from a year ago.
The used market is showing similar or improved results in most regions, the survey found.
In the East, the highest percentage of dealers (40 percent) say their used sales are on par with a year ago although nearly one-third say their preowned sales are above last year’s totals. That’s also largely the case in the Northwest.
In the Midwest, almost half of dealers (48.5 percent) have seen used sales improve over last year at this point in the selling season. Less than one in five dealers reports slower preowned sales.
That’s certainly the case with Lee Van Zeeland of Team Winnebagoland in Oshkosh, Wis.
“As much as I can get, I can sell,” Van Zeeland said of used units, citing the reduced price as one reason why used unit sales have improved.
Van Zeeland is down in new unit sales, although he attributes part of that fact to the store choosing not to be extremely aggressive on pricing for its noncurrent inventory.
“I’m not willing to give them away right now,” he said. “I think we can retail for a better dollar because there’s less out there to compete with right now and the 2011s are so high in price.”
In the West, nearly 60 percent of dealers report better used sales. Across the snowbelt, most dealers (55 percent) say their inventory is in good shape. Only 27 percent characterize their inventory as “heavy.” Dealers also reported their best-selling segments in the survey. Forty-three percent of dealers said the snowmobile segment selling the best was in the performance category. PSB

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