Milams Honda Kawasaki – Pine Bluff, AR – Aug. 15, 2005

Milams Honda Kawasaki
1212 South Ohio
Pine Bluff, AR 71601
Family owned; Charles E. “Bubba” Milam II, Principal
Milam's started as an Indian dealership in 1947 and added Harley Davidson in 1953. Currently, it is a Honda and Kawasaki dealer carrying Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs and PWC along with Honda full line, including power equipment. The facility totals 30,000 square feet. Currently ATV out-sell bikes about three to two. There are 14 employees, nine full-time and five part-time.
“We have found that the newer dealerships that are coming in, instead of establishing a good service based business, where your service department wins your customer into your dealership, their way is to flood the media with ridiculously low, non-profit prices that destroys the manufacturer's image and it also kills the value of the vehicle. We have noticed that used bikes in the past would hold their value real well. [High volume dealers] don't just kill [our] new bike sales, but they kill used bike sales and repeat customers who come in wanting to trade up.”
“It breaks down by manufacturer for us,” says Milam. “For the Kawasaki brand, the Ninja series sportbikes are very popular and the 75- and 650 Brute Force ATVs. One of the surprising things that have done well is the 600 series Mules that Kawasaki makes. Hot Honda models include 600 and 750 cruisers and foot shift ATVs. For parts, Milam says that winches and rim and tire combinations are hot on the ATV side and light bars, windshields and backrests are strong for cruiser motorcycles.
A local university brings in lots of college-age customers that are buying primarily sportbikes. But because of the rural setting, ATV sales remain strong, as do Kawasaki Mule utility vehicle sales. Milam also said that because of the recent high fuel prices, midsize cruisers are popular primarily the middle of the Honda lineup, such as the 600 and 750cc models.
“Actually, it's kind of been reversed for us, says Milam. “They are opening more and more commercially owned riding areas, where you pay to ride. And Honda's Riders Club has sent our customers books on off-road riding area all throughout the U.S. so if anything it's increased. Arkansas has really gone out and built a lot of riding areas that are state maintained trails.”
The shop has four full time and four part time techs, along with a service manager and service writer. Two people are dedicated to the parts department. “In our area, service is what wins our customers because on mechanical stuff, you have to service everything you sell,” says Milam. “I would say that 50 to 60 percent of our sales are repeat sales and we want them to buy parts in the parts department and get service in the service department. We are selling two units as we speak and one of the [customers] was referred to us by his brother in law because we serviced his vehicles for the last 10 years. The other young man is buying his seventh vehicle from this dealership because of service and parts.”
“We're in a rural area in SE Arkansas, and we advertise in a regional morning paper that goes not only to our county, which is about 100,000, but also to surrounding communities,” says Milam. “We also do network TV advertising during the 10 o'clock news. I would say the TV advertising brings people in statewide. We also did a spring sale that lasted for 90 days using a manufacturers finance program of $49 down 4.9 percent financing. It was a huge success for us. We probably had 8-10 credit applications per day.”
“I've found that our biggest success is we try to start the year with every model in every color that the manufacturer makes [on the floor],” says Milam. “That way when people come in shopping, they don't have the tendency to leave if you don't have it and price shop you. If you have it sitting there and they like it when they are sitting on it, price is not as much of an issue.”
-Blake Stranz

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