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WPS displays growth at vendor show

New reps from Marshall, new brands and a new format

Sales reps for Western Power Sports and its American V-twin sister brand HardDrive Parts spent a full week off the dealership path in January.

There was work to be done in Boise, Idaho, home of WPS, however, and the WPS reps logged plenty of extended workdays during the newly formatted National Sales Meeting.

Out was the old 2-3 day gathering that showcased both street and off-road products. Instead, the off-road vendors had the Century Link Arena floor on Monday and Tuesday to start the show. While they departed Wednesday, the on-road vendors moved in, and WPS reps scattered throughout the city to undergo regional sales and training meetings. Fans of blue football fields were in for a treat when the weeklong event ended Friday night at the WPS Awards Banquet Dinner overlooking Bronco Stadium, home of the Boise State University football team.

The meeting had several new twists this year, thanks to the expanded format. First, WPS reps and vendors had to meet their new teammates and partners from Marshall Distributing, the Michigan-based distributor that was acquired by WPS in November. About a dozen or so new faces from the Marshall sales rep crew made the transition to WPS. Word at show headquarters inside the Century Link Area was that some of those Marshall reps who didn’t make the cut opted for retirement, and MTA Distributing scooped up others.

Next, WPS reps had to learn all about some new brands that were entering the WPS catalog for 2015. Seems Motorcycle Aftermarket Group brands like DragonFire, Progressive Suspension and Renthal were among those that MAG was no longer offering to new competitor WPS after MAG’s merger with Tucker Rocky Distributing in May 2014. Into the WPS and HardDrive space come brands such as Hornet Outdoors, Patriot Suspension, Firebrand and FOX, showing its new Street Performance Series for the American V-twin market.

Speaking of HardDrive, national sales manager Ronnie Wehr, who previously banged heads with WPS reps when he serviced the Boise area as a rep for Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties, has made a marked rise since being named HardDrive’s western regional manager in 2013. That same year, Gunnar Heinemeyer joined HardDrive as V-twin product director, coming over from Custom Chrome. Like Wehr, he was proud to show off the brand’s impressive 2015 catalog, including new HardDrive Wheels that offer 40-50 percent margins and come with a three-wheel display. The book checks in at 150 pages larger than the 2014 version, with hard parts getting more prominence.

Plus, there were some new faces to get to know on the floor, which doubles as home ice for a minor league hockey team. Jackson Esselman recently was named director of marketing for WPS, a newly created position that will bring the marketing of all the company’s brands and segments under his watch. Esselman previously was national marketing manager for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., and prior to that stint was a district marketing manager for Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. His vast industry experience also includes a tenure as race team/media relations manager for WPS.

And a new brand

Of course, what’s a weeklong event without the launch of a new house brand? HardDrive reps were anxious to return home to sell the new Highway 21 apparel line. Debuting with boots and gloves, the WPS brand — targeting riders in need of black leather — has grand plans for expansion in 2016. Jackets, vests and chaps will be coming.

Dealers in search of margin, however, would be wise to take a look at Highway 21 today. Brand manager Jeremy Weismann has added Highway 21 to his lineup that also includes Spidi and Fly Street. Five of the seven pairs of Highway 21 goatskin gloves (ranging in price from $29 to $59) are ready to ship to dealers, with another two pairs expected to be in stock by mid-February. Three pairs of boots also are part of the launch, and will be shipping to dealers in mid-February: engineer-style in tall and short ($169.95), harness in tall and short ($149.95) and work ($129.95).

“Our buy-in special is 53 points to the dealer. We’re offering buy six and get one free for the boots and gloves,” Weismann said. “And after that it’ll be 40 points margin across the board. We’ve shipped them, and they’ll be waiting for the reps when they get home, so they can get out and show the dealers.”

The brand also figures to capitalize on the recent hiring of designer Sam Ames, who has done work for KLIM and other industry companies. “He’s very rat rod old school and totally fits the market,” Weismann said.


Dealers, Weissman believes, will welcome a manageable product lineup with margin.

“The margin will be a key thing,” he said. “We want to have more of a niche line. Apparel guys know the easiest placement is these two things — gloves and boots. And we’ll progress from there. But we’re going to start out by offering 53 points margin, and not too many brands launch with that type of margin.”

The popular 2.5-hour Highway 21 loop route out of Boise is a hit with riders, and others can learn about the namesake road beginning Feb. 15 on Highway21.com.

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