Bair’s Polaris Victory-North Canton, Ohio-February 7, 2011

Howard Bair opened this Ohio dealership in 1946. It started as a lawn and garden business specializing in farm equipment. In 1967, Bair added the Polaris line. “We’re one of the country’s oldest Polaris dealers, in the top five or 10,” current president and co-owner Brad Cheyney said. In 1976, Cheyney’s father purchased the dealership and lawn and garden business from Bair. An extension was added to the building at that time. Through the years, the dealership has remained Polaris exclusive, adding ATVs in 1985, PWC in 1992 and Victory motorcycles in 1998. The PWC was dropped when Polaris stopped producing the machines in 2004. “We definitely saw opportunities with other brands over the years, but we didn’t think we could do them with the space,” said Cheyney, who now owns the dealership with his sister Kim Trussell. The dealership, with its lawn and garden business, has nearly maxed out its 3-acre space with two pull barns built in addition to the main building. What makes the dealership unique is it’s longtime family owned, it has long-term employees, and most customers are known on a first-name basis. “Half the sales are being done with an owner, so they know they’re getting to deal with the people in charge,” Cheyney said. The dealership was inducted as the second dealer ever in the Polaris Hall of Fame in 2005.
As many dealers have begun discounting to save sales and their businesses, Cheyney is worried the reduced prices are devaluing the product. “So many people are selling on price and not knowledge and products. It’s sad that so many people think our products are worth so little and sell on price,” he said. Bair’s has vowed to avoid sharp discounts. “We sell our business; we sell our name,” Cheyney said. “We don’t sell on price.” He later added, “We’ll never be the cheapest place to buy our product ever.” The customer service level offered at his dealership, he says, brings customers in despite the standard pricing.
Cheyney has a hard time specifying which models are doing best because all of his Polaris vehicles are selling well. “The Ranger and RZR have been phenomenal,” he said. Many are also selling with loads of accessories, from plows to wenches. Victory bikes are also moving, as Bair’s is in the top percentile in Victory sales nationally. “Just being a Polaris dealer these past few years has been phenomenal,” Cheyney said.
Recently, Cheyney began noticing customers buying high and low cost options. “Polaris has been doing a really good job at having the low value models and the premier models, and it’s worked out well,” he said. Both groups of vehicles have been selling well at his dealership. “We’re seeing the value purchases, but the premium purchases are unbelievable,” he said.
Bair’s service department is run much like the rest of the dealership, with a no-nonsense approach. “We’re just very close to our customers. We allow our customers back in the shop to talk to our mechanics,” Cheyney said. The technicians also are free to contact customers whenever needed. “We always, always get our customers an answer,” he said. The department’s loyal customer base keeps it busy enough that little advertising is done. “We’ve never had any specials in the shop. We never have,” Cheyney said. Each vehicle is serviced on a first-come, first-serve basis, except warranty work, which takes priority. Like the service department, P&A is also doing well. This is despite the fact that the dealership doesn’t try to upsell every customer. “We are very laidback,” Cheyney explained. “If the customer wants it, we sell it to them. There’s nobody pushing it at all.” With each new vehicle sale, customers are given a Polaris catalog with a card attached that thanks them for the purchase and offers a 10 percent discount off all accessories purchased within a year of the vehicle.
Even though the dealership decreased its advertising in 2010, last year was its biggest overall sales year. Part of that success came from events. The dealership hosts an open house in April and also signs up for Victory’s demo ride tour each year. “The open house and the demo tour is on our property, and the point is to promote our name and Victory and Polaris,” Cheyney said. Off site, the dealership advertises by placing bikes in the area Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant and by participating in a weekly bike night there. What also helps sales, Cheyney said, is everyone who works at the dealership owns Polaris and Victory vehicles. “We all eat, sleep and drink all the product we sell,” he said. Riding Polaris and Victory helps the staff with their knowledge base and makes them passionate for the brand, which leads to more sales, Cheyney said. “People can really, really tell that we’re not just selling stuff as a salesperson, that you know it and love it.”
Cheyney, who has worked for the dealership since his father bought it in 1976, says dealers should watch their inventory, keep their integrity and focus on customer service. “Take care of the customer,” he said. “Go over and above to satisfy the customer. Don’t give away the store; don’t give people something they don’t deserve, but make sure you get all the customer’s questions answered.” He also suggests offering test rides to those interested in the products. “Treat the customer with respect and make them feel comfortable when they’re in your store,” he said. PSB

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