Houlton Powersports & RVs-Houlton, Maine-January 18, 2010

BUSINESS PROFILE
Anticipating being up this year about 15 percent, Houlton Powersports & RVs has beaten the odds and outpaced the industry. A large part of the dealership’s success can be attributed to snowmobile sales. Being located just a few miles from the Canadian border in northern Maine, Houlton is a snowmobile destination dealership, and it has seen growth for the past few years. “When I came to the dealership in 2005, our snowmobile sales floated from about 80-100 units,” said Ben Adams, manager. “In 2008 we were up around 260 sleds. Thus far for this winter, we’re at about 175 units, just snowmobiles, and we have four months of winter left.” For a town of 6,000, Adams says they move a lot of units. “We continue to see our sales grow every year,” he said. “We see this year being our best year thus far. We put a huge emphasis on customer service. That alone has allowed our business to grow significantly.” Since the dealership is in a snowmobile vacation spot, Adam says the staff goes out of their way to keep customers’ machines up and running. “If a customer is up here for three or four days on vacation, we know what it feels like to be broken down,” he said. “There’s such a short window of time for them to get out there and enjoy it. We don’t want them to be down for any reason if we can help it. We take parts off of brand new sleds if that’s what it takes to get them back out on their product. The reason sales have grown so quick is because we don’t just do it for one or two customers, we do it for every customer who walks through that door. We don’t care where you purchased the product, whether it came from us or not, everyone gets treated the same.” Besides exceptional customer service, Adam says they attract vacationers because of the store’s extensive inventory. “For a small town, we sell a lot of product, but we also display and bring in a lot of product. We have a lot of inventory,” he noted. “I do that because if it’s someone local or driving by, they’re going to look in and see an awesome selection and because of that they’re pulling in and checking it out.”

Greatest Concern
Like many other dealers, Adams’ concern regards the state of the lending industry. “It looks like we’re starting to see a turnaround,” he said, “but there’s still some instability.”

WHAT’S HOT
With snowmobiles being the hot ticket item at Houlton Powersports and Arctic Cat being its sole line, Adams says anything with the OEM’s new 800 engine has been popular this year. “Anything with that in it has been a great seller for us,” he said and added that Arctic Cat UTVs also have been selling well.

CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
“The lending industry has been completely flipped upside down,” Adams said. “The people who are coming through the doors now are serious, qualified buyers vs. a few years ago, you had a lot less qualified buyers, people needing to be put on payment plans.”

PARTS AND SERVICE
A significant reason the dealership has a customer base that stretches across much of the northeast is because of its experienced technicians and great customer service. “Our technicians will take the time to go over the product, over what they did, explain to them why, how,” Adams said. “If they have an issue, we approach them with what needs to be taken care of and what we need to do in the future to prevent it. By doing that, the customer knows they’re getting a value of what they’re paying for.”

PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Word of mouth spreads like wild fire, Adams says, especially in the snowmobile industry. To help spread the word about the dealership, Adams says he and the owner are very involved in the Internet, including Web forums. HCS (harcoresledder.com) has been a big success for the dealership. Adams says they post happenings at the dealership as well as industry news. “It’s not always about us,” he noted. “Over time snowmobilers have come to realize who we are and what we bring to the table. It has paid off very well for us.”

WORDS OF ADVICE
“Every single person who walks through the door is a potential customer and a potential customer for life,” Adams said, “so you treat every single customer as if they are a customer for life. There’s no picking and choosing.”
—Karin Gelschus

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