Chicago Sports & Cycle - Midlothian, IL
Kathi Wolfe, General Manager
10 Years + Attending, 5 Attended last year
Does your business do any research prior to the show?
We try to be aware of market trends so we can verify them at the show. We watch the fashion industry to see what trends are coming down the pipe for accessories and apparel. We talk to our customers to see what they want. We always find several products that are new to the market just from asking questions to our customers. In fact, we have a blog we use to gather feedback from our customers, and this gives us direction into what products we will sell. We also use outside sources such as motorcycle events to see what is selling, what customers are buying, and to try and figure out why they are buying those items or services.
What areas of your business do you research?
We research every area of our business. To give you an example, we spent a lot of time to upgrade our service department – simple things like new equipment to make things faster. All the equipment we found at Dealer Expo. We even found companies that did demos over the selling season that we have budgeted for next year. We used the show to determine how to budget for new equipment, upgrades and additional staffing.
In November we decided we wanted to focus on 100% absorption in our parts and service departments so they can cover 100% of their overhead with gross profits that cover the expenses of the company. With a reduction in unit sells and the effects of the economy, we had to redirect our efforts. Dealer Expo was a key resource in helping us meet our goals and find solutions for both departments. We made “doing more with less” our research priority and brought that to Dealer Expo.
When do you start researching your needs for the show?
We are doing it now, taking notes all year long. Dealer Expo is part of our cycle; we watch what goes on in our dealership over the year, and as soon as it starts to quite down in September we start to figure out what we need to get through the next year. We then take those ideas to Indianapolis and we look for solutions. We bring those solutions back to the dealership, implement them, and then start the note taking process all over again.
Do you attend Dealer Expo every year? If so, why do you feel it’s important to go every year?
We attend Dealer Expo every year. In fact, because we are so close to Indianapolis we encourage all our employees to attend. By attending, talking to vendors and other dealers we get an idea of what is going on in the industry. The show allows us to take advantage of peer-to-peer networking, and we attend the seminars. We come out of the show with ideas, and we take those ideas to our managers, who then take them to our employees. After we gather that information we put it to work in our dealership, then we look at our results and loop starts all over again. We work around seasons, and consider Indy one part of our loop!
Did you use any resources or tools to plan for the show last year?
We took advantage of Map Your Show. At Dealer Expo you could spend a week walking around and not see it all. You have to use the tools to help you plan and make appointments. Otherwise you get lost and you never get what you’re looking for. We have been using the tool R.I.D.E since before it was created!
Any advice you’d like to offer other dealers?
We found products 2-3 years prior to them being in our catalog because we found them at Dealer Expo. That means we were selling them before most dealers ever stocked them. You have to attend the show and shop the show to be ahead of the game. Our competitors are always asking us where we find product they don’t have, and it’s at Dealer Expo.
Take advantage of the opportunities to hold key meetings with vendors you want to know more about. We use that information to bring back to the dealership and provide details to our managers. This allows us to build action plans based on those meetings, so we can implement them into the dealership departments and onto the retail floor.
Lastly, anybody who attends the show needs to think like an owner. Don’t only come for the deals, free stuff or to only meet your lifeline distributors you meet with on a daily basis. If you want to be successful in this business, you need to find solutions to your problems and make the show an opportunity to determine where you can win with your customers. It’s not the dealership down the street that’s your biggest competitor; it’s the furniture store down the street, the automotive dealership 10 miles away and all the other places where consumers spend their discretionary income.