NVP in Madison might have been the best one yet
Another month, another industry first. In August, I had the opportunity to cross another “must” off my list, the Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties National Vendor Presentation. With the same nerves as a new student on the second day of school, I made my way to the Monona Terrace Event Center in Madison, Wis., anticipating my first interviews at the show and preparing for the rumored massive turnout of dealers. What I found was a venue brimming with powersports enthusiasm and an educational experience for all who attended.
I arrived in time to join the dealer preview on Saturday, registering on the top floor and taking several escalators down to the exhibition hall, a change new to this year’s show.
“We had a really good turnout, I think, with more vendors than ever,” said Jim Matchette, Drag Specialties’ national sales manager. “We expanded the front entryway where you came down the escalators and moved registration upstairs to add extra booths — that was a real success. For us, it couldn’t have gone any better.”
My first booth stop of the day was to see Jay Savignac and his crew at Arctiva, the Parts Unlimited snowmobile apparel line. After a photo op of the Arctiva gear, Savignac walked me through some new products, including Z1R Helmets, which complement Arctiva’s apparel options.
Next I ran into Sukoshi Fahey, senior account manager for Avon Tyres, who has a long history with the NVP and commented on this year’s expansion: “This year they’ve added more vendors, more enthusiasm with the ICON show and display bikes. They’re trying to add more value to the dealers coming and keeping that excitement going.”
It’s clear that Parts Unlimited definitely succeeded in drawing more dealers this year. Dealer attendance was up this year over last, and with more than 175 reps and 200-plus vendors, NVP was the perfect recipe for a good time. Walking through the carefully planned aisles, I saw many people catching up like old friends and displaying genuine interest in what each vendor had to offer.
“We try to mix up the rows with V-twin and metric products to keep the dealers active and keep the vendors engaged. It really keeps everybody moving nicely,” Matchette added.
Jeff Derge, vice president of sales for Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties, said that the excitement between dealers and vendors alike was a staple of this year’s show. “The biggest thing that we heard back was the level of enthusiasm and how much new product we had. Vendor after vendor said it was the best show that they can remember in quite some time as far as trade shows are concerned.”
Of the vendors that attended the show, more than 30 were new brands, a positive sign for the industry.
“If you look at the vendors that were there, they represent a huge portion of everyone’s business that’s in the powersports industry, a significant portion, so to be able to learn from the experts all in one setting is a great opportunity,” said Lou Lopez, Parts Unlimited national sales manager.
Being able to host vendors, dealers and reps alike is very important to the Parts Unlimited team.
“The number one thing NVP shows is [parent company] LeMans’, and especially Parts Unlimited’s, commitment to all of our dealers,” Derge said. “Our plan is always to have in stock what they need. The idea behind the show is to educate all the dealers so that they can deliver a good experience to any consumers.”
Parts Unlimited’s commitment to its dealers and reps did not go unnoticed. Barry Templeton of Vision Wheel said that the NVP meant positive changes for the industry. “[Parts Unlimited] supports the industry,” Templeton said. “It’s like a creek; everything you do down through that creek to keep the flowing going helps everybody.” In addition, Templeton explained that the event gives Vision Wheel an outlet to discuss what it has to offer to both dealers and reps.
“One of our many focuses is really to get the fire going under the brick and mortar dealer … those are the guys we want to keep healthy. We want to keep current, modern inventory and keep moving the motorcycle business to the real dealer,” Matchette said.
Contrary to my first impression, I was not the only newbie at this year’s NVP. Sean Delshadi, a marketing manager for Burly Brand, was thrilled with the opportunity to get out of the office for a few days.
“I love it here. I’ve helped support [Burly] from the office for many years, so now it’s cool to finally get unchained from the desk, get out here, shake hands and really meet these people — it’s exciting to hear how excited they are about us,” he said.
Frank van Es, a sales manager for Progressive Suspension, says that after more than 25 years in the industry, he can’t remember a single year without having attended NVP. It’s valuable to show reps the physical product for them to touch and discuss in person, he said. “We absolutely love the shows — it’s a great opportunity for us to talk to reps. This year one of our biggest pushes is to make sure the reps know that we support them 100 percent. You can send that in an email or over a phone conversation, but looking a person in the eye and committing to them — there’s a lot of value there.”
Among the vendors, David Waugh, director of sales for Yoshimura, shared its philosophy: Out of the box thinking. “We want our dealers to take our product out of the box. Our boxes are ugly, but our product is beautiful. We want dealers to engage — we want them thinking out of the box.”
Following the dealer preview, there was a two-hour meet and greet with other dealers on the Monona Terrace rooftop. Not only were there vouchers for free Spotted Cow (sold in Wisconsin only, folks!), but this year, dozens of custom, vintage bikes were placed among the guests, where they could look and reminisce.
“The meet and greet has always been a big part of what we do, but by adding the bike show it definitely made the event just that much better,” Derge said. “We invited local dealers, the reps and vendors to bring out some of their motorcycles that are important to them. Not necessarily product billboards, but cool motorcycles that have been around forever.” Derge explained that having all those nostalgic bikes — including one of [LeMans Corp. chairman] Fred Fox’s minibikes and a go-kart that Fox manufactured — were a way to remind everyone present why they got into the business.
I watched a guy rev up a 1974 Yamaha TZ250, which drew quite a crowd after a few unsuccessful attempts. Almost like the sword in the stone, several dealers tried and failed, but then with resounding applause, the engine came to life. This was the type of camaraderie I could get used to.
The anticipation only continued to build as I left the meet and greet for short walk over to the ICON Limiter Live show. Parts Unlimited closed down Carroll Street, conveniently close to the community center and a few local bars. First off, there wasn’t a bad place to stand. If the dealer meet and greet was my favorite part, the icing on the cake was watching Kyle Sliger on a sportbike and Rob Carpenter on a V-twin battle for the trickster title. At one point, I was close enough to reach out and high-five Rob Carpenter as he rode by sitting on top of his handlebars, but I figured that might throw off his balance!
“The Limiter Show has become kind of a staple,” Derge said. “ICON still continues to be that premiere brand for street riding, and stunt shows are always received well.” Dozens of dealers stood around the barriers, cheering and taking pictures of the two riders as they impressed with their skills.
Day 2 of the NVP brought another wave of dealer interest. Joan Anderson from Backroads Cycle Service in Fort Madison, Iowa, has come to the show with her husband for years.
“We come to the show to see the products and talk to the vendors. If we have an issue with something, they can answer some of our questions,” she said. “It’s hands-on which is good because I can touch things and talk to somebody about them.”
Vendors find equal value in attending.
“[The show] is important because you’ve got the workforce that’s out in different types of businesses in different regions of the country, and it’s a chance for us to talk to them one-on-one, to understand what difficulties they’re having with our products … a chance for us to take their feedback and adjust so we can be a better brand and better vendor for the organization,” said Paul Langley, president of S&S Performance. “It’s such a professional, well-run network that if you don’t take advantage of this, you’re missing out on opportunity.”
Veteran dealers Nick Hoyt and Pete Nowaskey of Pistol Pete’s Custom Motorcycles in Menomonie, Wis., have been coming to the show for the past 11 years. Nowaskey was pleased with the vendor turnout, saying that the companies present were very responsive to all of their questions.
“It’s important because you get to meet people face-to-face,” added Hoyt. “You’ve been talking on the phone, but it’s really nice to meet with the people that sell you their product actually in person.”
Eric Tweedy, a sales representative for Maxxis International, agreed that NVP was a great opportunity for vendors as well.
“It’s really an opportunity to get in front of dealers and give them a nice refresher,” Tweedy said. “It’s been going great so far. It’s been great to see a lot of reps as they come in and out, refresh our relationships with them and get them interested in the brand.”
All in all, dealers walked away informed and educated.
“We provided a really phenomenal opportunity for every dealer in America to invest in their business, and the guys that came to the NVP walked away feeling like they made a very strong choice and came out with a very strong return on that investment,” Lopez said.
Upcoming events for Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties include the Atlanta Regional Showcase Feb. 27-28 and a Regional Showcase in King of Prussia, Pa., March 19-20.
“We, as a company, from everyone that was in attendance — from the reps, the dealers, the vendors and from our employees — we want to say thank you. Everybody was engaged and the level of enthusiasm that was displayed at the show was second to no other show we’ve ever had,” Lopez said.