Dealers: It's Time To Take A Risk


I don't have to remind you about the dire financial state of affairs in the U.S. and the world, as we've been living it for the past couple of years. What's done is done, and we can't look back — only forward. It's now time to get a fresh start with new ideas, a new outlook for the year, and even a new set of retail rules.

It is essential that you perform a detailed review of everything, amending or eliminating things that don't work based on profitability. For the last 10 years the trend has been to spruce up the exteriors and interiors of your stores — shiny-new, heavily-merchandized dealerships, most employing a theme of some sort. Guess what? Those superficial things just won't cut it anymore. Now, you must take your dealership out of its shiny box and present it to the community in different ways.

Let me give you an example. In Northern California opening weekend of duck-hunting season started Oct. 18. The Duck Club that I am a member of is one of 212 clubs. Duck hunting is not an inexpensive hobby (particularly in California, with all of the state, county and city regulations, not to mention all of the equipment needed to hunt). As with the rest of the country, the duck-hunting crowd is on the mature side. In this particular area, the main road that leads to all of the clubs passes by a pheasant club of 5,000 acres which has an extremely large paved parking lot for hunters and guests.

A dealer in this area wanted to court this crowd, knowing the potential for sales was high. He did his homework, and soon met with the pheasant club's owner and pitched him some of his ideas, including putting an ATV/SxS display in a section of the parking lot; and having parts, accessories and two service technicians available for customers on their way to club meetings to meet their potential need for tires, repairs, parts and such.

The owner had no problem with these ideas. In fact, he thought the ideas were great. No one had ever approached him for something like this before (and this particular hunting area has about two-dozen dealerships within a 100-mile radius). They agreed on a cost of $1,000 for three full days, and the club wanted dealership hats for their staff to wear.

Having personally witnessed the display upon driving to my duck club Friday morning, I wish I had thought of it. The lot was packed with hundreds of customers. Remember; always be on the lookout for a captive audience, this dealership certainly was successful with this. And the kicker: The dealership owner is not a duck hunter.

On the way home from the hunt on Sunday, I stopped by the display and had a brief discussion with the dealer. Here's what I found out:

  • He received numerous "thank yous" from customers who were otherwise too busy to stop by a dealership.
  • Customers commented on his great selection of products and vehicles.
  • Some asked where his dealership was, saying they were going to stop by with friends.
  • Many stated that a station like this has been needed out here (the clubs are all scattered throughout the marsh)
  • Some did not know there were so many accessories for ATVs and side-by-sides.
  • Some asked if he would do it again next season.

Duck season in California lasts 100 days. That is one quarter of the year, and for the past four years, hunting days has been increasing. Imagine the profits and all the new customers one could attract.

The dealer sold 28 ATVs and 19 side-by-sides during this event. He had dated product that was sold on sale. He made 176 tire sales, the majority of them installed at the time of sale. He installed 27 winches, sold 41 helmets, and other assorted parts, oils, bungees, etc. His margin on P&A was 36 percent.

He is an MSRP dealer and extremely fair on the pricing of his prep and freight; document fees are a state controlled amount. He wondered why he hadn't thought of this before. The pheasant club has approved the dealer's request for three more shows.

Doing stunts like this means taking a risk, but sometimes, risks do pay off. They could mean more profit and sales.

Steve Zarwell is an editorial advisor and columnist for Dealernews. Visit his seminar, "30 Ideas in 30 Minutes," being held today and tomorrow in the Indiana Convention Center.