The powersports industry has been sleeping for 25 years when it comes to its retail practices. It's time to wake up and understand how to sell products, not collect them like a museum.
Mr. Dealer and Mr. Parts Manager, if you think that all of the products you purchase from a vendor will actually sell through at full retail, you are living a retail fairy tale. Perhaps with the exception of core retail items, it ain't going to happen.
When it comes to apparel and accessories the clock is ticking from the moment the product arrives at your loading dock. I wish these products had pop-up timers like Butterball turkeys, so you would know when it's time to start getting them out the door. The lifespan of soft goods is much shorter than tires, lubes, sprockets and chains. The fashion side of riding apparel is hot for only the season. Then it's old news and not worth full price.
Promote the products that are wants, not needs. Merchandising plays a big part of the retail puzzle, but it also takes active inventory management.
Let Them Buy
Almost every retail store holds special sales and promotions for limited time periods. On any given day you can walk into a store like REI Co-op, Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's and find dozens of incentives to buy. (Notice I did not say the word clearance. There is major difference between putting something on sale and putting it on the clearance rack. Sale products are temporary while clearance items remain there until they're out the door.)
If your loyal customers frequent your dealership week after week and see no changes, sales or specials, then there is no need or impulse for them to buy. But if you progressively manage your soft goods and offer in-store specials, you will turn more inventory.
Here's the realistic way to sell through. First buy a large enough quantity to avoid shipping charges. Sell at full retail for 30 days. Then for the next 60 days hold temporary sales and reposition the items to a hot spot or end cap. After 90 days, discount deeply. Seasonal leftovers go to clearance.
Tie in specials and promotions with seasonal events and holidays. Most months have at least a one-day holiday, so combined with your shop's events, promotions and rides, you can come up with many reasons to have a special.
Be sure to monitor and clean out your clearance rack. If it's been in there longer than six months, try an alternative route such as eBay or a swap meet.
Work for Sales
Retail takes some nurturing. Make it happen, however, and the work will pay off in your selling through more, returning less and getting stuck with fewer products that take up your valuable space.
Until products feature the pop-up turkey timers, get a price gun and code all your products with their arrival date. All you need to do is mark the month and year on the price label and you will know how long it's been hanging around your dealership. To recall the words of the late, great powersports guru John Wyckoff, nothing other than humans should celebrate a birthday in a dealership.
Christy Michaud is a retail merchandising specialist at Tucker Rocky Distributing. E-mail questions and comments to Michaud via firstname.lastname@example.org.