1314 S. Telegraph Road
Monroe, Mich. 48161
One of Scott Poupard’s favorite memories as a youth is a “gift” his mother gave him — the chance to go to a nearby motorcycle store and sit on a bike. Because his family had little money, sitting on the bike was as close as Poupard could get to powersports. “It was always in my blood,” he said. He later worked at an area motorcycle store for a short time before being employed at a paper manufacturing factory. There, he rose from working on the factory floor at a mimimum wage to being in charge of the company’s largest sales account. While at the factory, he also started working on used motorcycles, personal watercraft and snowmobiles. When his job at the factory ended, he took a chance — rather than pursue another lucrative sales job, he opened a motorsports shop in a building connected to his grandparents’ restaurant. At the opening of the 1,200-square foot warehouse in 1995, Poupard’s inventory consisted of one snowmobile, one dirt bike and one street bike. His parts department was equally humbling — one used helmet that was perched atop an old pedestal. Despite an unsuccessful attempt at establishing a credit line with an area bank, Poupard’s inventory gradually rose. Three years later, he purchased a 2 1/2-acre property about a mile away that was in a much more high-profile area of Monroe, Mich. Monroe Motorsports now boasts a 11,000-square foot store with about 16 full-time employees. The store carries new Polaris snowmobiles and ATVs, new Eton ATVs, and used ATVs and motorcycles. Poupard does not have a franchise for motorcycles, but his well-stocked used selection includes Yamaha, Harley, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Honda as well as other brands.
Poupard calls the snowmobile industry “a scary thing.” He can remember selling 78 used snowmobiles in his second year of business in 1996. This year, he’s only sold six of the 15 new Polaris sleds that he ordered and 10 leftover from ’05. The lack of snow has been an obvious factor. But Poupard, who lives in “a big blue-collar working area,” also believes the rising costs of snowmobiles has put a damper on the business.
Insurance issues also concern him. Poupard said any vehicle on the road in Michigan must have insurance. That means a consumer, however young or old, must have insurance before leaving Monroe Motorsports with a road vehicle. But Poupard has become increasingly frustrated as the number of insurance companies willing to insure sports bikes and other powersports vehicles has plummeted.
ATVs. “ATVs are just so practical,” Poupard said. “It’s raining outside — go ride your ATV. It’s snowing outside — go ride your ATV.” ATVs now make up at least 38 percent of his business, up dramatically from when he started. Poupard said Polaris’ improving product is one of the keys. “They’ve come a long way,” he said of Polaris’ ATVs. “I really do believe it’s the best bang for your buck.”
Customers constantly are opting for less-expensive motorcycles — the middle-class cruiser and 600cc sport bikes. “That’s what a lot of people are chasing,” Poupard said, noting he has not done as well on the bigger bikes that end up being bigger investments, but not bigger profit-makers.
Parts and service
Monroe Motorsports features three service techs and two master techs. “We’ll service anything,” Poupard said, adding his team even fixes the inexpensive brands that consumers purchase from big box stores. The techs also keep busy because Poupard offers 30-day warranties with his used motorcycles. “If you got a problem, come back and we’ll fix it,” he said. “That’s our motto.” Poupard has two people devoted to detailing used vehicles. Their work has caught the attention of an area dealer who once asked Poupard to have the detailers put on a seminar. Poupard declined, fearing he would lose his competitive edge.
Promotional home runs
Poupard said he constantly allows motorcycle clubs to use his property to conduct charity events and chapter rides, even when other nearby area dealers won’t. The goodwill goes a long way in improving business. Poupard does advertise with radio and trade publications, but business often comes from the store’s reputation, he believes. “Nine out of 10 times it’s word of mouth,” he said. For example, he recently took a call from a motorcycle rider in San Diego, Calif., who asked him to help out on a used bike sale.
Words of advice
“Stay out of the used motorcycle market — let me have it all,” Poupard said, laughing. He did caution dealers to think carefully when working with OEMs. “People base their business on the franchise,” Poupard said. “I don’t think they are always there to help the dealers.” Poupard did stress that “not all franchises are like that” and “what it comes down to is taking care of your customers.” He compares working in the motorsports industry to his teen-age years of helping out in his grandparents’ restaurant. If a customer has a bowl of cold soup, heat it up. If he needs another cup of coffee, get it. “Make it right with them,” Poupard said.