Failure can be self-fulfilling prophecy for some dealers

Publish Date: 
Apr 1, 2007
By Joe Delmont

Some dealers shortchange their sales opportunities by stocking too conservatively. So says Greg Blackwell, vice president of marketing at Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties.

Blackwell encourages dealers to consider variety and visual impact in their showrooms when they make stock plans. "When I hear a dealer say, 'Nobody is coming in,' and then I look around the store and I don't see any product, I wonder," he says.

Year after year Parts/Drag has one of the largest display areas of Dealer Expo, surrounding its core rig with booths and tents from its top suppliers. There were a lot of new products at the Parts compound in Indy this year. And Blackwell was telling dealers to make sure that they get what they need.

"Things that people with money in their pocket want to buy," he explains. "Don't let them walk out without buying anything."

When dealers cut back on local advertising and other promotions, and then reduce their product purchases, failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a customer can't find what he or she wants in a showroom, often they'll go online to get it, rather than settling for whatever is available locally, says Blackwell.

"Dealers who do stock product aren't going hog-wild; they're being cautious, but they're not dropping advertising," he says. Rather, they continue to solicit customers and then have product available when shoppers come into the showroom. Harley dealers are successful, he notes, because when a customer walks in there are many things he or she can buy.

Interestingly, Blackwell told Dealernews that he doesn't anticipate the double-digit annual revenue growth this year that Parts and Drag enjoyed in previous years. "We're growing, and we plan to grow, but right now you have to look at taking business from your competitors if you want to grow," he says. "I just think a lot of dealers — everyone in the industry — has to think that way for 2007. The business will be there, but it won't be easy to get."

The Wisconsin-based distributor opens more than 1,000 new dealer applications a year and services about 12,000 dealers internationally, says Blackwell.

The company reportedly tightened operations this year to meet anticipated slowing market conditions, but still plans to expand internationally. Parent Lemans Corp. purchased land in Germany for a European facility, according to Blackwell.