Sturgis Rally finds dealers, vendors seeing more green

From the view at Black Hills Harley-Davidson in Rapid City, S.D., the 72nd annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally received rave reviews.

Crowds filtered through the dealership, then outside to its tent and others vendors’ tents. They checked out the latest wares from a variety of companies, had service done to their bikes and most importantly, spent money.

“Overall, I thought it was a great event. The weather was excellent. There were no real hiccups. I think people came, had an awful good time. Our sales were definitely up for the year,” Terry Rymer, general manager and co-owner of Black Hills Harley-Davidson, told Powersports Business.

Though official numbers had yet to come in by late August, Rymer said the crowds seemed to be a little larger this year when compared to 2011, and those who did attend were willing to part with their cash.

“I think there were more people, definitely, but I think also people are in a little more of a buying mode,” he said.

The dealership was heavily staffed with nearly 500 employees, all but about 80 of whom were temporary workers. And they all stayed busy. During the event, Black Hills Harley-Davidson sold 290 new and used bikes and kept accessories, such as shocks, windshields and seats flying off the shelves.

“The key is you can buy it right now, and you can have it installed right now,” Rymer explained. “You don’t mind paying if you can just use it right now.”

In addition to the dealership, customers visiting Black Hills Harley-Davidson during the rally found rows of tents featuring vendors such as Kuryakyn, Vance & Hines and others.

“Our vendors did really well, and we’re happy,” Rymer said.

One of the vendors in the dealership’s lot was Progressive Suspension. The company was busy installing high-end bagger suspensions, along with its other products.

Black Hills Harley-Davidson had sales that were “definitely up” during the Sturgis Rally.

“It was a good rally. We were pretty excited about how everything played out,” director of marketing David Zemla said.

He projected Progressive Suspension’s sales topped 2011 numbers as most people were poised to buy. Zemla also credited some of his company’s sales to an aggressive marketing push, which included a highway billboard nearby, a 30-foot banner facing the highway in front of the dealership and Facebook and blog posts before and during the rally.

“We’ve always seen, ‘Hey, were are you going to be? Do you have this specific thing?’ about 30 days out, so we were more proactive this year,” he said.

Down in Sturgis, the Sturgis Buffalo Chip was also busy with its camping, concerts, vendors and more.

“This year was a phenomenal year for us,” founder Rod Woodruff said.

The Chip recorded its largest attendance in its 31-year history. The 580-acre site hosted about 3,000 RVs and a large number of motorcycles and tents. And those who stayed weren’t just stopping by. Woodruff said the average stay for a camper was six days, and that could be rising in the future.

Vendors exhibiting outside Black Hills Harley-Davidson encountered customers who arrived in a mood to buy.

“Particularly this year, I noticed that there were more and more people who came earlier and stayed later, so you know, our six-day average stay may be extending into seven. That’s significant because when people come they really have no reason to leave the Chip either. There’s everything there for them; it’s really their home base,” he said.

The Chip hosted the annual Victory Owners Group ride and reception party, as well as motorcycle stunt shows, fire dancers, comedians and more. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Boston, Zach Brown Band and Eric Church were some of the concert headliners.
“Everyone liked the entertainment,” Woodruff said.

In addition to the regular vendor areas, the Buffalo Chip opened a new space for vendors who not directly related to motorcycling.

“They were elated, and in fact, those were some of the folks that paid the most in advance, so they can have their spot back next year,” Woodruff said.

Vendors in each area of the Chip reported positive feedback, and several have already signed on for 2013.

“I think people were spending money; people were happy,” Woodruff reported.

And that trend was seen all over the rally. Among other factors, Zemla said the lack of rain and cold brought in larger crowds to this year’s rally, leading to the sales increases.

“We got lucky on weather — that’s always the challenge,” he said. “This particular year it was really mild, and that always works in our favor.”

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