Power Profiles

Aiken Motorcycle Sales and Service – Aiken, SC – Nov. 8, 2010

Aiken Motorcycle Sales and Service
2129 Whiskey Road
Aiken, S.C. 29803
Marvin Tumblin Jr. and Marsha Hopkins
Aiken Motorcycle Sales and Service did not start as a dealership. It opened as a service and rental shop that grew over the decades. “My father was a flat track racer back in the ’50s and the ’60s, so it was a hobby for him,” said Vice President and co-owner Marsha Hopkins of her father and co-owner Marvin Tumblin Jr. “He was working on his bikes every night. At that time, our town of Aiken was really small, and my father worked on kids’ bikes and go-carts, or whatever else didn’t run around town.” In the late-1950s, Tumblin and two other partners started the service and rental shop. In the mid-1960s, the partnership dissolved, and Tumblin took over the business. In the early 1970s, the dealership began selling dirt bikes, and the business grew from there. “In ’77, we obtained a Suzuki franchise, and we moved to a building that my father built,” Hopkins recalled. In 1985, Tumblin added Kawasaki and a 50-by-70-foot attachment onto the building. In 1996, the showroom increased to 80-by-80-feet. And in 1998, the dealership took on Honda and Yamaha and added another 20-by-80-foot enclosed space onto the front of the showroom. “We try to make it a pleasant environment for people to come in and do business. We try to keep the fun in it,” Hopkins said. “It’s supposed to be a pleasant experience. These are recreational vehicles, it’s not supposed to be a hassle to get parts or get your repairs done.”
“I have very large concerns about floorplan interest on aged inventory, and I have very large concern about liquidating this inventory without taking such a significant loss,” Hopkins said. Much of the old inventory includes 2009 models that were ordered in 2008 when the economy was still holding steady. Now there are too many models on the floor. Hopkins would like to see a program where the OEMs help dealers discount older inventory and another in which dealers don’t have to wait 45 days to receive rebate and discount refunds from the OEMs.
The biggest sellers in Aiken are currently ATVs and utility vehicles. “Of course 2009 was a bad year for everything. It seems like the ATV market is doing a little better this year than it was in 2009,” Hopkins said. The second most popular products are used motorcycles. “Used motorcycles are always a really good seller,” Hopkins said. Because of an unusually hot summer, with heat indexes upwards of 100 degrees in June, July and August, sales in those months were down, especially for motorcycles, but now that fall has hit, traffic has picked up. “We had an incredibly hot summer here in South Carolina, and it seems like the past few weeks here when the weather’s started getting more pleasant around here, we saw more traffic,” Hopkins said.
More customers coming into the dealership are looking for discounts, which can be stressful when sales staff are trying to close a sale. “For the most part, it’s definitely a buyers’ market,” Hopkins explained. “People are only buying if it’s a good buy. The only thing that is selling are things that are on sale. There has to be the sense of urgency involved. In other words, this is a reduced price, and it’s going to get away if you don’t get it, and it obviously has to be a good enough deal for people to pull the trigger and make the purchase. So the trend that I’m seeing is the prices have to be very competitive to make a sale.”
Since the dealership began as a service shop, service is still one of the departments that is popular at the store. “Our service department is really busy. We typically have a two-week backlog,” Hopkins said. However, last year was different. “We did have service department work shortages in 2009, which is probably the first time in our history that we had a shortage of work in our service department,” she said. Luckily, for the 11 service employees, work has again picked up. “We do service all of the brands that we sell. We don’t do any high-performance specialty work, like we don’t do any race-engine building or anything like that, but we can do any engine rebuild or anything else for any motorcycle, ATV or watercraft,” Hopkins said. Parts and accessories have been slower to grow. “My accessories department is actually low right now, an area where I’m hoping we can build back up,” Hopkins said. “I guess accessories is a little more of a discretionary purchase for the consumer.” She is working on a promotional plan to provide coupons that look different for a variety of events, so she can track which promotional tools are driving customers to the dealership.
The biggest promotional event for the dealership is an annual concert held by a local radio station. The concert features country music stars, and this year it will have Darius Rucker, Vince Gill, Jason Aldean and others. There are only two ways to get tickets: Buy them from the radio station or win them from local merchants. “It’s a very popular event. It’s a sellout every year the day the tickets go on sale,” Hopkins said. Each year the dealership has tickets to give out, but in order to win, people have to visit the dealership on a specific night. “These ticket stops generate a lot of walk in traffic. We generally have 200-300 people walk in during the ticket stops,” Hopkins said. On that night, the dealership runs specials, lays out their apparel and has coupons for visitors. The dealership also hosts bike runs and provides promotional vehicles for use at the state fair.
“Just stay involved with the community and make sure you treat people the way you want to be treated,” Hopkins said, “and I think honesty and integrity stay at the top of the list.”

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