How long have you been coming to Dealer Expo?
Since 1972. I was just a teenager working at a Harley-Davidson shop the first year I came to the show. It’s funny; the basis of the show hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. Of course, there used to be a lot more partying associated with the event, and nowadays it seems the show is more business-oriented. But hey, we all had long hair and listened to rock music, and that was appropriate for that time. Now we are focused on our businesses, so it’s good to see the show changing with the times.
What are you looking for when you come to the show?
The show is spring training for me. I use the show to get motivated, and I look for any merchandising ideas that I can bring back to my store. When I used to race, I used it to make connections with any product we might need to support our team. The show gave us a good platform to discuss details and fine-tune contracts.
I have always liked gear, any aftermarket gear. I’m not biased to just Harley. I like to see exactly what the industry outside of the Harley market is providing. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy a lot of Harley-Davidson products, any H-D dealership is going to do that. As an H-D dealer you have to take advantage of the brand and support the factory, but knowing what’s on the market helps me make the best decision possible.
Even if I don’t purchase non-Harley products for my store, I try to be aware of what’s being offered and what I’m up against. Having this awareness allows me to figure out what customers are buying in general. That information influences what I might want to sell to my customers. Sometimes I find things at the show that are not Harley but will sell well and I buy them. In my opinion, if you don’t know what’s going on outside of the Harley industry, you can’t run your business properly. Especially in today’s market, it’s much more important to be aware of what’s going on in the entire industry.
What else do you look for?
I always hook up with old friends and other Harley-Davidson dealers I don’t get to see very often. Expo is sometimes the one place I can see these people every year. Even companies I do business with, I don’t always get to see them in my dealership, so it’s nice to say hello. I’ve been in this industry a long time, so I know a lot of people, but as the industry grows it’s harder to keep in touch. And this isn’t just a quick shaking of hand or an after hours party; we actually sit down and talk business when we are at the show.
Dealer Expo has always offered great ideas to help you understand how to display your items, mixing and matching products to give it the right appeal for your customers. This could be as simple as the way pipes are displayed to how a bike is dressed. Just because it’s a dirtbike product or a sportbike product doesn’t mean the display concepts don’t work. At Dealer Expo, I can get a feel for how things are being sold. This crosses over in any market.
How many days do you generally spend at the show?
I always spend at least one-and-a-half days, but two if we need the time. Because I’m in the Harley market I don’t need as much time. I still have people I need to meet with and companies to be discovered, but it allows me enough time to get the job done a lot quicker. Being as close as I am it’s pretty easy to drive out. We always start at one corner of the show and work our way across. I know who I want to see and where they are, and we try to hit them as we make our way through. Of course, we always look the whole show over first, then we go back and hit up the companies that really caught our eye. That’s when we get into the meat of things and gather additional information or try to negotiate.
Have you taken advantage of the educational seminars?
In the past I have always taken advantage of the education. Last year I only had a day to spend, so we didn’t have time to attend any of the seminars. However, I’m hoping to catch some of them this year … any idea is a good idea if you can make it work in your business.
If you could offer advice to your peers, what would your suggestion be?
I have known some dealers that go to the show and some dealers that don’t go to the show. The guys that don’t go, that are Harley-Davidson, just don’t think they have any reason to be out there. They say that it is all aftermarket. You and I know there is plenty of Harley-Davidson product offered at the show, but it’s not just about Harley product, it’s about understanding your market as a whole.
Although I believe it’s important that you attend your own manufacturer shows, if you only do that show, you are limiting yourself as a dealer. By going to Dealer Expo, you’re opening your mind up to the entire industry. Ultimately your niche is just a small part of that entire marketing, so I think it’s important you support it and use it to your advantage.