Stevens’ Cycle Sales – Bay City, MI – Jan. 21, 2008

Stevens’ Cycle Sales
3636 Huron Road
Bay City, Mich. 48706
William Stevens Sr.
Forty-two years in business, 30 some employees — some who’ve been with the company more than 30 years — 10 major product lines, two locations and a distributor of parts and accessories to about 2,000 dealers in Michigan and the surrounding states. Most people would agree that Williams Stevens has overseen phenomenal growth since he first sold Bridgestone tires out of a gas station in the mid-1960s. Stevens’ Cycle Sales Business Manager Debra Stevens says her husband, Stevens Sr., sold tires until making enough of a profit to open his own powersports dealership in 1965. The business continued to grow, and he was able to expand it in the ’70s and again in the late ’90s when they opened an additional store in Midland, Mich. Although they have 10 major lines, Debra Stevens says Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Honda are the dealership’s main sellers. Debra Stevens notes the dealership does a lot of sales in the summer, but with only snowmobile and a few ATV sales in the winter, the distribution segment of their dealership keeps their heads above water. “In the winter, [parts distribution] can be about half of our business,” Debra Stevens noted. “It keeps us going and from starving to death.” She adds that since Stevens Cycle Sales has so many manufacturers, it can distribute the OEM parts. The dealership built its dealer network 20-30 years ago by distributing and gaining buyers at a motorcycle dealer show. Debra Stevens says the dealership has a warehouse attached to it that holds about $2 million in aftermarket and OEM parts.
Debra Stevens says given that the economy in Michigan is in a tough state, one dealership can undercut many others by giving major discounts. “This market is so competitive,” Debra Stevens noted. “You have to have camaraderie with the other dealers, so you can all stand together and all make money. It’s a hard thing to do when you’re selling stuff like this (recreational products).”
The “muscle machines” are selling the best right now, says Debra Stevens, because the dealership gets a good portion of younger people who like to have the biggest and the best. She adds that Yamaha machines are selling the most with Ski-Doo behind them. “All the manufacturers go through their turns,” she said. “It’s Yamaha’s turn this year, and it’s been their turn for awhile. It all depends on what the manufacturer is doing for its customers and dealers.”
Gas prices have had a big impact on Stevens’ Cycle Sales. “Our motorcycle sales have probably doubled in the past two years,” Debra Stevens said, “and scooter sales were fantastic last year.” However because of the poor economy, Stevens says people are more careful of what they’re purchasing. “Now they’ll have it for a longer period of time rather than saying, ‘Well next year I’ll buy the bigger and better machine.’ ”
Stevens Cycle Sales has taken its parts department to a whole new level compared to most dealerships. The dealership needs to have many parts on hand because of the high number of manufacturers it carriers. Therefore, it has turned itself into a distribution company as well. “Our parts department isn’t very large,” Debra Stevens said, “but we do have two big warehouses that hold the parts we keep in stock.” To hold down such an extensive parts department, the dealership has two staff members with 30 years experience each. “We do a tremendous amount of parts especially now that we have snow and ice,” Debra Stevens noted. Having the immense number of parts on hand also helps the dealership’s service department. “We order from [OEMs] every single day whereas some of the other dealers will only order once a week. We rarely have to do special orders as far as the staples go: your oil, batters, tubes, skis, etc.” Debra Stevens said. “The only thing that holds the service department up in any business is the manufacturer especially the Japanese because you have to wait for it to come from another country.” As the parts department grew, so did the service department. Between both stores, Stevens Cycle Sales currently has five motorcycle repair techs and seven people who do the basics, like tire and oil changes.
Stevens Cycle Sales for the longest time only advertised in newspapers. Debra Stevens says this is the first time in about 10 years they’ve tried television. “I think it’s helped so far; we’ve seen new people,” said Debra Stevens. This is also the first year they’ve tried bike nights. Debra Stevens says their first one in November had more than 130 people. “We were really excited about the turnout,” she noted, “and we look forward to more people at our next one this month.” The dealership plans to keep hosting the bike nights as long as they’re a success.
“You need to get along with your fellow dealers because those are the people who will be there for you when you need them,” said Debra Stevens. “You don’t want to burn bridges; you want to work together. I’ve seen new dealers come in and right away think they’re going to own that market but end up burning their selves bad.”
— Karin Gelschus

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