Although Harley-Davidson of Baltimore has been around for more than 45 years, its ability to change with the times and stay current has continued to make it profitable. The dealership has reached out to younger buyers and women, growing its customer base considerably, says Don Meyers, general manager and minority owner. It also has utilized the Internet to grow its market presence, including taking part in more than 30 different Web sites. Meyers says majority owner Jim Foster can take credit for the dealership’s experienced staff and family oriented environment. “We look at is as a family,” Meyers noted, even though the store has 35 employees.
“The economy certainly has had its effect on our business,” said Meyers. “We have great products that are stylish and reliable. However, people still need financial assistance to make a purchase. Continued access to a financing source, namely Harley-Davidson Financial Services, is critical. Additionally, we are constantly monitoring our operating costs.”
In Harley-Davidson of Baltimore’s market, touring models are hot commodities. Meyers says they sell more touring bikes than any other type of motorcycle. “The Classic or Ultra Classic are a couple of the top sellers for us,” he noted. “Touring bikes have always been pretty steady with us, but that seems to be the hot trend right now. We had two of them go out this past weekend again. Part of that is because of the re-engineered frame, the 2009 model year, and it’s gotten a lot of good write-ups.” The dealership also has seen a rise in preowned sales. “We have expanded our ‘previously enjoyed’ motorcycle inventory in the last year,” Meyers added, “and have enjoyed a significant rise in ‘previously enjoyed’ motorcycle sales and financing opportunities.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
The dealership has been focusing more on younger buyers as well as women riders. Meyers says Harley-Davidson’s models that include the Dark Custom styling have attracted the younger generations. For the past couple years, the dealership has hosted numerous events for women, including Garage Parties, Riders Edge courses and About the Bikes classes. The classes aim to introduce motorcycling to novice riders and people who want to learn more about the recreation and products. “Our staff is really comfortable with taking a woman who has never been introduced to this and taking the anxiousness out of making a purchase,” Meyers said. “The fastest growing part of our business is women.” He also notes their women customers have increased by triple digits each year since they started hosting the different classes and events. “We’ve been focused on that for about three years now,” Meyers added. “When they’re treated well, women tend to be more loyal. My wife has gone to the same hairdresser for 20-some years. That girl keeps moving from place to place, and my wife keeps following her. That’s true with a lot of things.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
The staff’s experience with the dealership has helped its parts and service departments considerably. Meyers says the parts manager has been with the dealership 31 years and other employees have been there 22, 15, 13 and 11 years. Meyers says owner Jim Foster really looks after the staff. “We want people to get to know and be comfortable with the faces here,” Meyers noted. “It doesn’t mean we don’t have turnover.”?The dealership has enhanced its parts and service department through Harley-Davidson’s Motorcycle Value Program. Meyers says the dealership joined the program in 2006 to provide additional value to their loyal customers. “There are 23 dealers (in the program),” noted Meyers. “Harley normally gives a 90-day warranty. What we’ve done for folks who are a part of that is provide a 1-year guarantee for that part as long as our service department has installed it. That seems to have helped us.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Harley-Davidson of Baltimore stays in constant contact with its customers through social networking sites. Tina Jarman, promotions and marketing, says she updates all the sites and right now they have almost 2,000 friends on their MySpace page and almost 1,000 fans on their Facebook page. “We’re very big on getting the word out,” Jarman said. “We’re seeing more people come in who would not have before because of our Facebook page. That’s the trend for us right now that’s quite positive. Our Web site, MySpace and Facebook profiles are very important to our future success.” Jarman says she goes on the sites about every hour, and she spends about a solid hour and a half between the sites every day. “We just started Tweeting. That’s a growing network,” she added. “We’re also on 32 other bike-related sites where I’m constantly posting what we’re doing, from Craig’s List to Motorcycle Monthly. I have a photobucket where I can plug one photo in and send it to all my different sites.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Communication is a big thing right now,” Meyers said. “The world is changing very rapidly, and we must work every day to keep up with those changes. You need to be constantly reaching out to your customers.”
— Karin Gelschus
If you’re interested in having your dealership profiled, contact Powersports Business
Associate Editor Karin Gelschus at email@example.com.