When times get tough, the tough get creative. For Bill Comegys, owner of Grand Prix Motorsports in Littleton, Colo., it was clear that he needed to diversify his business to handle the hard times of the last few years. But instead of simply adding some tangentially related product to his powersports business, Comegys considered an unusual option and ran with it: He turned his dealership’s mezzanine into Grand Prix Guns. This calculated risk paid off, and helped open up a whole world of new customers and marketing opportunities.
Besides making Grand Prix Motorsports possibly the most heavily defended powersports dealer in the nation, adding the firearms retailer to the business hit the bullseye.
“It was a combination of a couple of things,” Comegys says. “Business, as everyone knows, was terrible in ’08. We started looking for different ways to expand our customer base, asking, ‘How can we get more people in the door?’ I grew up in Texas and I’ve always been a firearms enthusiast, so we polled our customers and found we had a large, positive response to the idea of starting a new gun store inside the dealership. It worked out perfectly — our mezzanine was never a good sales area, so we took away the customers’ hiding place and built a gun store.”
Expanding into such an unusual market immediately proved to be a valuable addition. Not only did new customers begin to walk through the doors, but as the new Grand Prix Guns began to appear at gun shows and related events, obvious marketing crossovers became apparent.
“There’s actually a [firearms] dealer across the street, but I saw the chance to apply service learned in the powersports side to firearms selling,” Comegys says. “I was tired of seeing poor service at gun dealers, of not getting greeted. But it’s mainly opened my eyes to the fact that I can market to new events and customers now. We’ve done events with the [Denver] Broncos going skeet shooting. We’ve gone to hunts, gun shows, rodeos and country fairs. Now we’re bringing ATVs and UTVs to these events and selling them right alongside. All of our fliers are now combined for events like these.
“I’m not sure on what the exact number is, but I’d say that we see something like an 80 percent crossover between bike and gun owners. We’ve started running Concealed Carry classes every third Saturday, and they bring in people who have never set foot inside a bike dealer before. This year, the gun store will make up about 10 percent of our total gross, and its sales have doubled every month since we opened it in March 2009.”
Grand Prix Guns has been a success for a variety of reasons, but two of them are certainly Comegys’ passion for shooting sports and the added ability to reach new customers. He is no stranger to either factor — passion and reaching people — in the more conventional channels of the powersports business. As a racer himself, Comegys uses his love of road racing and drag racing to help fuel his enthusiasm for his “day job.” As a pleasant side effect, it’s proven to be a great way to connect with customers.
“I used to road race for years, but I had to quit when I bought the dealership because it was in such chaos,” Comegys explains. “These days I do plenty of track days on a ZX-10R and I’ve gotten into drag racing on a turbo Hayabusa. We’ve become a title sponsor for local bike-only events, such as the Bandimere Motorcycle Challenge. We make it a major event with lots of first-time racers, but it’s paying off with lots of new customers. We’ll go out and see 60 to 70 bikes with Grand Prix Motorsports stickers.” (continued)