February 7, 2011-Survey: Half of dealers reduced staff in 2010

In contrast to 2009, when most dealers reported stable staffing levels, half of all dealers reduced staff size in 2010, according to a national survey.
When asked how 2010 staffing levels compared to the previous year, 50 percent of dealers said they decreased staff.
In a similar survey conducted in early 2010, most dealers said 2009 staff sizes were the same as the previous year (sales staff was stable for 58 percent of dealerships that year, parts was stable for 68 percent, service was stable for 65 percent and F&I was stable for 78 percent.)
In the survey that covered 2010, only 39 percent of dealers said staff size remained the same.
For some owners, like Perk Bearden, president of Texas Motor Sports in Killeen, Texas, the majority of his staff cuts were made in 2009, while 2010 was just down slightly.
“In our market, the demand was there, but (new unit)?financing still wasn’t available in 2010,” Bearden said.
Dan Witmer, owner of Gear Head in Ottawa, Canada, also said that although he did reduce staff slightly, 2010 was relatively stable.
Other owners said 2010 brought deeper cuts than 2009, but said it was likely because they held onto employees too long.
“We didn’t react fast enough,” said Sheri Rosoff, owner of Minnesota’s Hitching Post Motorsports. “We let go more in 2010 than in 2009. And it was across the board.”
Robert Kay, owner of Star City Motor Sports in Lincoln, Neb., had the same experience. He held on to staff as long as he could, but when 2010 didn’t produce a sales turnaround, he couldn’t afford to wait any longer.
“We had a really good staff and didn’t want to let anyone go,” Kay said. “In 2009 we kept hoping things would turn around.”
Given the choice, Kay said he would likely have made deep cuts sooner.
“We made a classic mistake: We were letting people go one or two at a time,” he said. “We should have bitten the bullet with layoffs, then had a staff meeting where we explained what happened and that everyone else’s job was safe.”
On a positive note, 10 percent of dealers said they increased staff in 2010. In the previous year’s survey, only 6 percent of dealers increased sales staff,
6 percent increased parts staff, 13 percent increased service staff, and 3 percent increased F&I staff.
All of the dealers we spoke to said they felt good about staff levels for 2011.
“We’re slim and trim for 2011,” said Rosoff of Hitching Post Motorsports.
All said staff sizes were likely to remain stable or grow slightly during the year.
“I feel like we’re at a good level,” said Kay of Star City Motor Sports. “We’ll probably hire a little more staff within about 45 days.”
The 2011 dealer survey, conducted by Powersports Business, was taken in mid-January and includes U.S. and Canadian dealers. More than 360 dealers took part in the survey. PSB

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