Hillbilly Cycle Sales
317 Mercer St.
Princeton, W. Va. 24740
For 35 years, Hillbilly Cycle has stayed competitive in the small town of Princeton, W.Va., despite a number of dealers nearby. Sales Manager Reggie Poe says his father, Don, started working out of his basement about the time Reggie was born. Don eventually opened the dealership in 1972, selling motorcycles and ATVs. Brands include Honda and Kawasaki as well as TGB and ATK. The dealership has been fairly consistent with its brands and doesn’t plan to expand its lineup in the near future because of other dealerships near it. “There are dealers that pretty much cover everything else around us,” Reggie Poe said. Like their brands, the employee pool has stayed relatively consistent. “We have eight employees, and it’s generally been around there; the most it’s ever been is 10,” he noted. Hillbilly Cycle Sales has moved a few times but never far. “You’re pretty much on lockdown with the dealership agreements,” Poe said. “I can’t move farther than about 20 miles because then I’d be too close to (the other dealers).”
Poe says the number of dealers that exist are creating a level of competitiveness that’s greater than he’s ever seen before. “I have a Honda dealer 30 minutes in every direction. It doesn’t matter which way you go,” he said and adds it makes moving difficult.
Usually ATVs out sell motorcycles at Hillbilly Cycle because of the public trails near the dealership, but this year that hasn’t been the case. Poe says ATV sales have slowed and street bikes have become more popular. “It’s about 50-50 between bikes and ATVs,” he said. As for specific models, Poe says the bigger engines are more appealing to customers for both ATVs and motorcycles. “The 750cc and 650cc ATVs are doing really well,” Poe said, “and for motorcycles, cruiser wise, we’ve done real well with 600cc and 1,300cc this year. Sport bike wise, the 600cc seems to be the big one.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
People are more price conscious than before, which can put Hillbilly Cycle into a tough spot. “I’ve sold product to people because I’ve been $20 cheaper than another dealer.” Poe said. “On the other hand, I’ve had people walk out of this shop and go to another one over $20.” He also adds that people will drive 20-30 miles over small amounts of money.
PARTS AND SERVICE
The parts department is an area Hillbilly Cycle Sales excels because Poe says they carry a large inventory of parts and accessories along with OEM parts. “That way we’re able to carry different styled accessories than other dealers,” Poe said, “and aren’t beating each other up over price on a helmet.” Along with the parts department, the service department brings in a lot of revenue. “We have a few techs, and they stay busy all the time,” Poe said and notes if dealers service their customers well, they’ll continue to come back.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Dyno shootouts attract customers more than any other event, Poe says. A few times a year Hillbilly Cycle puts on the Dyno shootouts, and people get horsepower and torque readouts. “It’s funny because this guy gets mad because his buddy gets five more horses, so of course he’s going to spend some money to do a little more,” Poe said. “Everybody gets a chance to spice up their stuff.” Poe says they do print and radio advertising, but they don’t see a lot of return. “We’ll give coupons in the local trade journals that give discounts. I know they print a thousand magazines a week,” Poe said, “and we might have two people walk in here with a coupon.” Poe adds he’s at a standstill on what else to do. “When you’ve done all the advertisements you can do and people know about you, word of mouth is bigger than anything.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Be nice to everybody and don’t try to gouge past the reasonable price — everybody deserves a little bit, but nobody goes to work for free every day. Treat the customers the way you want to be treated, and sell your product for what it is.”
— Karin Gelschus
Hillbilly Cycle Sales – Princeton, WV – Nov. 12, 2007