INDY LIVE 2012: Market smaller than in '06, but still very healthy

Publish Date: 
Feb 17, 2012
By Mike Vaughan

On my way from the airport to the show I shared a limo with four distributor reps and a dealer. I really didn’t have much to say, but the conversations going on around me were pretty interesting. The most heartening was from the dealer who was apparently speaking with his sales manager, who’d sold three bikes that day: a Gold Wing, a VFR and a Fury. Not bad day’s work for a Thursday. The dealer was pleased and expressed his appreciation to the salesman for his performance.

The reps were kind of a mixed bag. They talked about reps that’d left the business; the business in their territories…some up, some down, and they also chatted about the Expo. There was the usual grumblings about the weather being too cold, then someone ventured that perhaps the location should be shifted to someplace warmer.

At that point another rep chimed in that most dealers are within 500 miles of Indy, and a location in the Midwest makes more sense.

This all prompted me to think about the show and its size and the relative importance of size.

Of course the show is smaller. Back in ’06 – ’07 we had more than a 1,000 exhibitors. This year we have 700, which is a pretty decent number, if you ask me. And remember these are individual exhibitors. For example, big distribution companies get counted as one, as do their proprietary brands; for instance Tucker-Rocky’s First Gear has its own listing. On the other hand K&N is only counted once, though you can see their products at several distribution company booths. So the 700 number is real.

Secondly, the facility has undergone a huge expansion. We used to have exhibitors stuffed into hotel rooms, on the second floor of the ICC, and even in the old stadium. Then, the nation’s economy, and our industry, took a Mike Tyson-style haymaker that laid all of us flat.

Motorcycle sales in 2007 were in the vicinity of a million and change. Now they’re less than half of that. I think it’s logical to assume that if we’re selling half the motorcycles, we probably need, or have, half the dealers we had in ’07, and that oddly enough was one of the problems mentioned by one of my fellow passengers with regard to his sales.

Following the above logic then, we should have half the number of aftermarket companies, but that’s not so. The number of exhibitors is about 200 more than half would indicate. I’d bet that there are a lot more than 700 aftermarket companies out there (the December Dealernews Sourcebook lists about 1,700), but obviously not all of them are at the show.

So why the anomaly? Well, people are still riding, as evidenced by the uptick in tire sales reported by the MIC, and the healthy sales that some of the distribution companies are reporting.

I spoke yesterday morning with Skip VanLeeuwen. Van Leeuwen Enterprises has been in business since 1974 so he’s seen a lot of ups and downs. He told me his January business was up more than 30 percent – not bad. Even Skip was surprised.

So people are still riding motorcycles, wearing things out and buying replacement parts, accessories and gear, and Expo is still the best place to see what’s new at a single location. It’s also an opportunity, via the many seminars, to pick up a few tips about how to run and manage your business more effectively. Even if you’ve attended seminars and conferences before, my experience is that there’s usually something you learn that you didn’t know before that can help you improve yourself, or your business.

Take advantage of all the opportunities available, see new products, talk with new vendors, attend some seminars and make your investment in INDY worthwhile.