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Consumer confidence dealing a harsh blow to dealers

I had just climbed my way into the four-man raft along the Boise River — we decided to attack one of the rapids, and the result was a soaked but refreshed editor — and the conversation with the three Western Power Sports sales reps on board continued.
After some appropriate descriptions of my first rafting mishap, we got back to business. “I now know it’s ice cold in the river, but what’s the climate like out there where you are? What are you guys seeing when you get into dealership to get orders placed?”

The unanimous response from those three reps in town for the WPS National Sales Meeting? Folks still are keeping a tight grip on their wallets, especially when it comes to big ticket items like purchases of new or pre-owned units.
Sure, the Commerce Department reported that in July, consumer spending had increased 0.8 percent during the month after a decrease in June. But the roller coaster ride of arrows that pointed toward Wall Street losses and gains in August surely didn’t help matters where potential powersports purchases are concerned.

“Lukewarm — medium at best,” is how one dealer at the Tucker Rocky Dealer Show in Frisco, Texas, described consumer confidence. “There’s just doom and gloom on the news. It’s depressing, but we work really hard at making it fun for people, and making it easy to buy. That’s our forte.”

And dealers make it easy to buy by stepping out of their dealership for a few days a couple of times a year. They get out, see what’s new and innovative, and hear about what’s working at other dealerships.

For John Jepson, who owns three dealerships in the Milwaukee area, attending the Tucker show is a way to positively influence his bottom line.

“We get to preview the products before 2012, so we can make our buying decisions before December, when we get in kind of a big rush during Christmas,” said Jepson, who owns Cedar Creek Motorsports, Fuel Powersports and Action Power Sports. “Coming here is a way to get ahead of the game.”

Another dealer perusing the vendor path at the LeMans Corp. NVP Dealer Showcase in Madison, Wis., had profit growth last year, and is on target for more growth this year. It’s no coincidence that he was at a distributor show, learning about product and learning from his fellow dealers. He plans to take another step toward impacting his bottom line by attending ProfitX Sept. 25-27 in Las Vegas.

My whirlwind tour of the August distributor shows by Tucker Rocky, WPS and LeMans Corp. provided ample time to get to know how dealers are feeling about the state of their businesses (“There’s a newfound enthusiam.”). Suppliers continue to turn to innovation and technology to get consumers excited to buy their aftermarket products. And every sales rep I came upon brought a passion to their trade that aftermarket manufacturers should admire.

From the fresh-faced youngster who has his sights on becoming a top seller, to the storytelling veterans who provide tips and product insight to the up-and-coming reps, dealerships are better off because of them.
But no matter how strong the relationship is between vendor, rep and dealer, the ultimate task is getting the customer to step inside the dealership and open the wallet.

“Keep working hard.” It was the answer heard time again from the mouths of those same dealers, reps and vendors when I asked for the best way to combat something like consumer confidence.

With so many factors out of their control, it’s the most effective choice. Just ask Joe Linza. He topped all WPS sales reps by moving more than $6 million worth of product in the past year. So dealers and consumers are both buying. Just keep working hard.

SAD LOSS
One of the more poignant moments of the August show tour came in Boise, when Thad Jones, the late WPS sales rep, was honored as a member of the President’s Club with
$2 million in sales.

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Jones, 33 years old with a wife and young daughter, enjoyed his last ride on Aug. 1. Jones was an avid motocross racer, and after WPS president and CEO Craig Shoemaker paid special tribute to one of his top national sales leaders, there was not a dry eye in the building.

YOUTH ROLL ON
I couldn’t make my way down more than one aisle at a distributor show without someone commenting on the end of the lead law ban. MIC general counsel Paul Vitrano, along with teammates Kathy Van Kleeck and Duane Taylor; AMA president and CEO Rob Dingman; and the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America led a grassroots effort that should be appreciated by anyone in powersports.

A TASTE OF VEGAS
In this issue’s Focus section on F&I/Warranty, you’ll get a taste of what’s to come at ProfitX in Las Vegas. Just like you will from reading these pages, you’ll learn in person from F&I experts how to increase your profitability. From talking to the sources for these stories, the amount of profit that can be made with an effective F&I sales team is unthinkable.

DATA CENTRAL
It’s hard to overlook the data that provides market intelligence for PSB readers. Once again, R.L. Polk and ADP Lightspeed are back at it in this edition. The ADP Lightspeed data on Page 11 show nearly all month-over-month arrows pointing upward. And R.L. Polk’s list on Page 24 of preowned on-highway unit registrations for the month of June is once again insightful. More important, it can be used to enhance a dealer’s profitability. Speaking of doing that, we’ll see you in Las Vegas at ProfitX.

Dave McMahon is senior editor of Powersports Business. He can be reached at dmcmahon@powersportsbusiness.com or 763/383-4411.

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