The Brothers Powersports
5205 First St.
Bremerton, Wash. 98312
Jeff Nilsen and Brian Nilsen
The Brothers began as an appliance store in 1949. Brian Nilsen’s grandfather, Carl Nilsen, and his brother, Joe, started it after Joe returned from World War II. In 1963, it was converted to a powersports dealership with the Honda line. Yamaha was added 20 years ago, and since then Can-Am, Ducati and Sea-Doo have joined the lineup. The dealership has been in its current location in western Washington state since the early ‘90s. It is now owned by the third generation of Nilsens, with Brian and his uncle Jeff running the business. “Everyone on our staff is an enthusiast. Everyone loves bikes,” Brian Nilsen, co-owner and general manager, said. “Everyone is excited to see the customer come in, whether it’s for service, parts and accessories, and of course sales.”
“My main concern is manufacturers not investing into R&D and coming out with new and exciting stuff to sell,” Nilsen said. “Luckily I’m multi-line, so all my eggs aren’t in one basket.” With the economy lagging, he’s worried too many manufacturers aren’t focused on innovation, leaving the new product the same as the older product. “If they fail to invest in R&D and fail to come up with new stuff, the industry will be stale; it will be stagnant,” he said. Nilsen is also worried about clearing out noncurrents with rebates in exchange for new models sold at full MSRP. “The new product is a lot more expensive, so we have to train our customers that these huge rebates, customer incentives, customer cash isn’t going to be there,” he explained. “There are going to be high prices, and we’ll have to go back to selling the excitement and product, not the price.” This is especially important, he says, as dealers begin stocking 2011 and 2012 models.
The top seller at Nilsen’s dealership is the Can-Am Commander 1000. “They’re hard to keep around, so that’s kind of one thing that’s nice to have around,” he explained. What draws customers to the UTV is its technology, limited availability and appealing price point. “They’re innovative,” Nilsen said. “They have 85 hp stock, and … the ATV market is flat if not decreasing, but that thing is innovative and exciting.” Also moving well are some Ducati models, and Nilsen expects to see more of that when the Diavel becomes available. “I think the manufacturers when they come up with something new that appeals to the enthusiasts, and they start creating a market, then people start buying,” Nilsen said.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
“I see two types of buyers right now,” Nilsen said. “One is the price-sensitive person, where they’re calling every dealer in town or even nearby states, and then there’s the enthusiasts who are looking for something innovative.” Both are buying product, but the enthusiasts are willing to spend a little more for the latest in technology and innovation. “You’re able to gain margin on those people,” Nilsen explained. Because of that higher margin, its important to concentrate on the enthusiasts and maximize the experience of each customer, he said. “What’s going to happen this year is availability is going to get tough, so dealers are going to have to get margin when they can.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Each customer that buys a unit from The Brothers Powersports learns about all the departments before leaving with their new model. “To maximize each customer that comes in here, we want to sell them a maintenance plan; we want to sell them their helmets and introduce to them to other departments,” Nilsen said. One of those departments is service, which has four technicians and is led by Mike Velasco, who is a former race performance champion and worked in Honda’s R&D for 12 years. “We can work on just about anything, as far as off-brands,” Nilsen said. “We work a lot on off-brands, so we work on Polaris, Kawi, Suzuki, whatever. We don’t really skip a beat if somebody has an off-brand.” The shop does performance tuning and race tuning services for customers as well. Both the parts and service departments have been down slightly. “Parts has been down, but I just equate that to service has been down, so our billed hours aren’t what they were a few years ago,” Nilsen explained. Instead of accepting slow parts sales, the dealership has focused more on apparel to bring up the P&A department. “One thing I’ve really invested in is apparel, so people have something new to look at each time they come into the store,” Nilsen reported. His female P&A staff also does well working with a primarily male clientele, he said. “They’re very good. They connect with people very well, and they make the guys feel like they’re in the right spot.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
The dealership’s biggest form of promotion involves getting out of the store and riding. The dealership hosts several rides, including one each Thursday night from March through September. It also has a customer appreciation event and a military appreciation event because it’s in an area with a large military population. Each Monday, a group rides area trails with staff at the dealership, and the company sponsors an MX team of about 30 riders. “All those things add up. We ride; we have friends that ride, and before you know it, you’ve got a motorcycle sale,” Nilsen explained. “We’re all enthusiasts, and that’s where the staff makes a big difference.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
Nilsen, who has worked for the business for 10 years, suggests owners be hands-on. “Be in touch with your sales department,” he said. “Ask about how many appointments you have; be involved in the write-up process. Be involved in how your phone language is because if we concentrate on our sales department, all our other departments can be busy.” Too many people, he says, get caught up in other departments and don’t focus on the crux of the business. “The money is on the sales floor,” he said, “and you really have to be in touch with your sales department, that’s where it’s won and lost.” PSB
The Brothers Powersports-Bremerton, Wash.-3/14/2011