HARLEY-DAVIDSON/BUELL OF DOTHAN
2148 Ross Clark Circle SW
Dothan, AL 36301
Dutch, Cindy and Bill Holland
48,000-sq.-ft. dealership founded in 1972 at the present location. “Another guy and I bought this piece of property,” says Dutch Holland. “He went into the clothing business and I went into the motorcycle business, then I bought him out and expanded the dealership.”
Carries Harley-Davidson and Buell. The store has a 140-foot-wide front and was one of the first H-D designer stores in 1989. “Of course, we’ve remodeled many times since then,” says Holland. “You have to stay ahead of the game.” Dutch, his wife Cindy, and their son Bill have 27 full-time and five part-time employees.
“Business is good. More and more people want bikes,” says Holland. “My biggest concern is that we stay alert to know what the market trend is. Harley was slow coming to market to meet the demand, but now I see it catching up. We don’t want to go back to the 1970s when all the OEMs except Harley were making too many motorcycles that exceeded the demand.”
Dothan was up 52 units in 2004 over 2003. “I think that’s because of the selection. We’re getting more bikes. We’re in a fast-food type of world; people have waited in the past, but now we don’t have that big of a wait list. A customer can walk in and buy a bike. They don’t understand why we have so many bikes on the floor.
“All Harley dealers are going to get the same number of motorcycles on turn-and-earn or whatever their system is. The South is outselling the North; therefore, we’re getting the biggest percentage of our bikes in the winter. I’m afraid we’re going to be short bikes in the spring. Northern dealers did sell their bikes once the weather broke, and nobody’s giving them up.”
Holland says touring bikes sell best at Dothan. “We only have a couple of Buell models, so that’s a niche market,” says the man who sits on the Buell Dealers’ Advisory Committee, which meets about six times per year in Milwaukee. “We only sell about 15 Buells per year.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
“We run a family-oriented business, and about 30% of our customers now are lady riders,” notes Holland. “Our market is the two-up, middle-class rider with an average age of 40.” Holland has been on the Harley-Davidson Dealers’ Advisory Council, “elected by my peers two different times to serve for three years in 1994 and 2000.”
Harley-Davidson/Buell of Dothan was a Pilot Dealer for the Rider’s Edge program. “Alabama is a unique state,” says Holland. “Riders just have to take a written test for an endorsement on their license. So rider education is not a requirement. There’s a mobile rider-education program out of Montevallo, Alabama, that comes to all cities about six times per year —three in the spring and three in the fall. But even those classes are not filled. So that’s why we decided not to host the Rider’s Edge program, although we hope to in the next two to five years.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Dothan has seven employees in service (six technicians and a writer), six in parts, and four in MotorClothes. “First we bought out the clothing store and expanded into it in 1997,” says Holland. “Then we were fortunate to buy an old Orkin building next to us. We tore that down and added on 7,000 sq. ft. for Christmas 2002, so this is our third season of the expansion of the MotorClothes department.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
“Thanksgiving kicks off our holiday season, just like in department stores,” says Holland. “Every day in December we do something special. A designated item — like a leather jacket — will be a percentage off.”
As for special events, “We had a toy run for the Salvation Army the first Saturday in December. Fortunately we had pretty good weather so there were 200-plus motorcycles.” Even prior to the founding of the Harley Owner’s Group, the dealership has had a club. “When my son, Bill, graduated from high school in 1978 he recommended that. Then we started the Wiregrass HOG chapter in 1986. Willie G. once asked me what Wiregrass was. It’s a strong grass that’s planted along the road to keep the dirt from eroding away.
“My store had the first Southern Region non-paid volunteer manager of HOG, and he and his wife are still active. We have about 192 members. Some dealers have 400 or 500, but we put want them to participate, not just pay their dues. If they just want a newsletter, we’ll give them that. If they can’t participate, why pay dues? 102 folks attended our Christmas party.
“And speaking of Christmas, instead of gift certificates we now have those plastic gift cards with a photo of the store on them.”
Holland likes the fact that this rural area — called Circle City — has “a 13-mile circular highway around the town. If you leave my store and go right or left, you’ll come right back to it in 13 miles. The City of Dothan leases nine Harley-Davidsons from us. They do a wonderful job working with us on the Special Olympics and escorting us around town for a non-stop toy run.” The Dothan Police Department is the beneficiary of the dealership’s February Sweetheart Ride.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Keep the faith,” advises Holland. “It’s a good time to be a Harley-Davidson dealer, but I don’t understand some of them. They should be in it for the money, yes—but they should be in it for the enthusiasm also. If they don’t enjoy it, they don’t need to be there.”
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