Over at the Parts Unlimited area, you won’t see the gigantic metal structure of years past. Instead, the area will be more open and better lit for product viewing, says Greg Blackwell, Parts’ VP of sales and marketing. “We’re trying to make it more product-friendly for the dealers,” he says. “So we’re changing the whole look of the booth. … New products will be the driving force attracting dealers.”
Blackwell says that although the company is not introducing any new vendors, each of its house brands has new products. “We’re going to do some things differently with Thor and Moose,” Blackwell adds. “They’re going to set up their displays a little bit differently and make them more dealer-oriented.”
Vendors in the area include Vision Wheel and Memphis Shades, among others.
Parts Unlimited also built a brand-new information center where dealers can check in. “We think it will be a better presentation than having the structure there,” says Blackwell, who readily admits that cost-savings was another consideration. Similarly, Drag Specialites won’t have a specified booth, but personnel will be on hand at the information center to answer questions.
One thing unchanged from past years will be lots of autograph signings. Scheduled to appear include Jason Britton, Mike Brown, Dick Burleson, Robbie Maddison, Rodney Smith and Michael Willard. At press time, Parts Unlimited was also trying to arrange to have legend Marty Smith in the Thor booth. “It would be pretty cool for a lot of the old-timers to meet him,” Blackwell says.
As usual, each booth in the Part Unlimited is offering incentives for dealers who order this weekend. LeMans also uses the show as an opportunity to share its latest programs with its reps. “We have some policy changes,” Blackwell says, “but nothing earth-shattering. We’re always tweaking and tuning on our programs and the programs we offer the dealers.”
LeMans management has stayed fairly constant during the economic decline. An exception would be former Icon head Phil Davy, who amicably left the company last fall to become general manager of Leatt Corp. “We haven’t found a replacement yet,” Blackwell says. “We’re really taking a long, hard look at who we want.” LeMans is also expanding its relationship with Next Level Sports Management, the public relations firm that last year managed promotions for Parts’ and Thor’s involvement in off-road racing. “We’ve now put together a better program where they will be representing our PR interests for all the companies and brands,” Blackwell says. “That way we can be doing good press releases and press introductions, stuff we feel like we haven’t done a great job at.”
Dealer Expo predictions. Blackwell says dealership closures and layoffs may not bode well for attendee numbers this weekend. “We’re as anxious as anybody else to see who shows up,” he says. “Some dealers are working with a minimal amount of staff, and some of those guys feel that they don’t have the staff to be able to man the store and send people to the show. I guess we could argue that every which way. But I think then maybe you should just close your store and come to the show for a couple of days. The information you can learn on the new products for the year is going to help you sell throughout the year. But, unfortunately, everybody doesn’t look at it the same way.”
Even so, Blackwell adds that the quality of attendees could be as high as ever. As evidence, he cites the dealer showcases Parts Unlimited has hosted in conjunction with the AMA Supercross. “We’ve seen really good turnouts at those so far this year, which makes me be positive.
“I think those dealers realize that if they’re going to be in the game, they need to be serious,” Blackwell continues. “And I think those are the ones that are taking the time to come [to Dealer Expo]. I think the dealers that do show up are going to be the serious dealers that you want to be talking to, anyway.”
— Arlo Redwine