Regional Showcase busy with dealers and reps
Whenever an expo hall is buzzing with conversation within the first 10 minutes of opening, it’s a good sign of things to come. The Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties staff recognized that on Sunday, Feb. 28, as the doors opened to the Atlanta National Vendor Presentation Product Expo.
What’s more, Jim Matchette, national sales manager of Drag Specialties, and Lou Lopez, national sales manager of Parts Unlimited, had already been blown away by the first-ever Dealer Preview on Saturday morning, and they continued to be pleased as the expo hall remained busy throughout the weekend.
Once again, Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties hosted two regional showcases, one Feb. 27-28 in Atlanta and the second March 19-20 in King of Prussia, Pa. And though both locations were repeat stops from previous years — Atlanta has been on the calendar since 2014, and King of Prussia was last visited two years ago — Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties switched up the schedule this year, offering an extra Dealer Preview day on Saturday.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 27 in Atlanta and from noon to 5:30 p.m. March 19 in King of Prussia, dealers and reps were able to stop in and check out the expo hall floor before the regular show on Sunday.
“It was a real nice, non-rushed, casual day for everyone, where you didn’t feel like you had to hustle and bustle to get to the next booth and move on as fast as you had to because you knew you were going to be here [Sunday],” Matchette told Powersports Business.
The Saturday preview served a few purposes. On the rep side, Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties required that half of their reps attend the Atlanta show, while the other half went to King of Prussia, and they’ll all be asked to attend the August National Vendor Presentation in Madison, Wis. With the added preview day at the regional spring shows, Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties were able to remove one of the rep training days from the Madison show.
“We get all the reps in front of the vendors two times per year now instead of once, and really this is our first year of doing this, so I think the plan worked really well,” Matchette said. “Training with the vendors was excellent; any new vendors that we have were able to present and meet the reps. And with only half the reps, the group’s a little bit smaller, so you can spend a little more time answering questions and tell them what’s going on.”
Also, dealers who had come into town early for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross race in Atlanta or the new Bike Show/Meet & Greet in King of Prussia had the opportunity to stop by the show before the Sunday opening.
Twice the education
Meeting with the rep force and dealers in both the spring and fall is beneficial, Matchette and Lopez have found, because dealers are thinking about different segments in February and March, when compared to August.
“When we made this plan, obviously we were getting away from [Dealer Expo in] Indianapolis, but we still wanted to get together twice a year,” Lopez said. “It’s a benefit to the company to get together and share ideas, and build those relationships and camaraderie among the reps and regionals and vendors and the team and everybody that’s here. It’s really grown into one of the best things that we do.”
Plus, the Parts Unlimited Offroad and Street catalogs, the Drag Specialties/Parts Unlimited Tire Catalog and the Drag Specialties FatBook were released over the past few months, and the regional shows offer dealers and reps the first chance to learn about some of the new products from those books in person.
“There’s nothing better than a dealer coming here, getting excited about the product, getting educated on the product, and then bringing it into the store. And because he just learned about it, he’s able to sell it through the store. So it just kind of completes the whole transaction,” Lopez said.
Lopez explained that getting the dealers face-to-face with Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties vendors is one of the primary reasons the distributor holds these shows, so they were glad to see dealers from the northern, western and southeastern states in Atlanta.
“It’s another layer of education. The dealer can learn; the rep can learn. They can talk about it — what the rep saw, what the dealer liked, and it just makes the relationship better,” he said. “We are pulling the dealers out from behind the counter, and they’re here in a setting where the phone’s not interrupting them; the service guy’s not looking for a part he needs for a job, and the consumer’s not coming in. We know those transactions are obviously important to all of our businesses, but the education part of it — when we’re trying to train them — is more valuable here without interruptions.”
Matchette added, “The dealers who are progressive and want to be ahead of the game and know going into the season, those are the guys who are here, and those are the successful guys who aren’t just sitting and waiting for people to come through their door.”
Preparing for the season
The crowd in Atlanta impressed even Matchette and Lopez, who said it was likely the best attendance they’ve had in Atlanta so far. Matchette didn’t even get around to all of the booths, he said, because he didn’t want to interrupt productive conversations, and some booths were busy all day Saturday and Sunday.
“I don’t think you can ask for a whole lot better turnout,” Matchette said at the end of the day Sunday. “We’ve got to be happy about it.”
He and Lopez are exciting about the upcoming spring and summer riding seasons. Both said they’ve seen events like the Mama Tried Motorcycle Show overflowing with attendees, and all signs point to a 75th Daytona Bike Week that was successful.
“I think we have a really good influx of new people that are coming into what we’re doing, and our industry needed it,” Matchette said.
Lopez added, “As soon as we get motorcycles out, we’re excited. We’ve been seeing it up north with motorcycles hitting the road early.” As Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties staff were in Atlanta, news spread that temperatures at their Janesville, Wis., headquarters were nearing 60 degrees.
With tweaks such as the added preview day at both regional shows, as well as food served on the expo hall floor to deter dealers from leaving after lunch, Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties is continually looking to improve its now-popular shows. Lopez revealed that they’re already looking at some new features for 2017, and plans have even begun for the shows in 2018 and beyond.