The Power of PG&A

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WHEN IT COMES TO DISPLAYING apparel and accessories, industry consultants often point to big-chain retail stores. Harley-Davidson dealers seem to be on board with this idea. Metric dealerships? Hit-and-miss.

RevSport! in Bloomington, Ind., doesn't sell vehicles, but customers often ask whether it's part of a big retail chain. The store's clever name, its professionalism, the large casual selection, the spotlighting, the decorations, even the big, red sign over the door — all converge to give this impression. But in reality, RevSport! is a mom-and-pop. Its employees are all family, and the same team of six has been running the store since its inception in March 2005.

RevSport! owner Marion Reeves, now 55, was able to retire back in 1994 after selling an automotive-related business. More than a decade later, he was ready to start another business with his wife, Linda. The Reeves' youngest son, Nathan, had just graduated college with a two-year degree in business administration. Their older son, Justin, had a job but was ready for something different. All four rode motorcycles, so choosing an endeavor was a no-brainer. "We decided that it should be something we'd all enjoy working at," Marion says. Nathan's wife and Linda's sister round out the team.

Acting as general contractor, Marion built from scratch the 8,000 sq. ft. building with two and a half stories. Marion created the RevSport! name as a play on his last name and the industry. He thinks it's more exciting and marketable than something generic like "Reeves Powersports." Another reason behind the choice: the name of a welding shop he once owned with his brother. "I learned from that," he says, "that you don't want to put your name on something because people are going to be always calling you at home."

Marion knew a good amount of traffic would be going by the store (about 60,000 per day, a recent count indicates). The county doesn't allow billboards, so he decided to turn the front of his building into a billboard. The 6-foot letters are reportedly the tallest in the area.

The showroom features a circular tile pattern and a smart layout. Right inside the door are four-ways with "New Arrivals" signs. Customers proceeding to the right along the tile encounter first the women's section, then youth, then men's. The apparel selection is heavy with casual items, so the overall effect is more like a retail establishment than a motorcycle shop. But customers are never confused because immediately to the left is a boot-and-helmet section. Also to the left is a staircase leading to an open second level that houses the street department, a new casual shoe area (see sidebar), and an ATV department. The latter includes popular displays of matching nerf bars, bumpers and grab bars.

"I put everything that I had learned there into this place," says Linda, who used to be a department manager for Goody's, a family clothing chain based in the Southeast. The result? Three large dressing rooms, high ceilings, men's and women's bathrooms, extensive spotlighting, continually changing displays, and graphics on foam board instead of vinyl banners. Deep within the store is a Thor backflip display featuring a VOR dirtbike.

RevSport! has a full tire room that includes a tire changer and balancer. Customers who buy a street or dirt tire can have the tire changed for $30 or $20, respectively, as long as they bring in the wheel. The price doubles for the rare customer who also walks in with his or her own brand-new tire (the store won't touch anything used or repaired). Surprisingly, the tire service was a tough decision. "It's just another headache," Marion says, "but we thought the tire sales would be so much better if we did."

This sentiment is representative of the store's policies in general, which combine old-school simplicity and friendliness with smart business practices. The ingredients have worked. Marion says RevSport! has been profitable from the get-go, and sales have grown every quarter.

KEEPING IT SIMPLE

Marion's penchant for simplicity extends to supplier relationships: "The more suppliers you have, the more headaches you have, the more expense you have," he says. Parts Unlimited worked with the store from the start, and is its main supplier. Marion says he buys enough of some items that he could buy directly, but he doesn't think the savings warrant the extra paperwork. "Buying direct just muddies up the water," he asserts.

RevSport! orders directly from casual shoe suppliers, as well as from Smooth Industries, Oakley, One Industries and Fox Racing. The store is the largest Fox dealer in the area. "We found that 50 percent of the people who come in here and buy a Fox item might not have ever been on a motorcycle," Nathan says. "The Fox brand crosses over a lot of boundaries."

Surprisingly, RevSport! has no computer system to handle inventory. As one employee checks out items at the register, another usually lists the items on a notepad. "Out of Stock" placards reside behind most of the hanging product. This system may seem backward, but the Reeves argue that it connects them to the product, and makes trends easier to spot.

RevSport! does use a computer for other things. Its Web site offers an e-newsletter, a list of riding areas, and a link to its eBay store, where it sells two or three out-of-date stock items per week. The store also sells current items through various vendor sites, like those of Fox and One Industries. And the store sells a good amount of Icon items to Europe.

RevSport! stocks heavily in common wear items such as brakes, levers, cables and chains, and orders current merchandise only. "We do not purchase buyouts," Marion points out. "We're here to offer customers what they see in the magazines. They don't want to keep coming in here and seeing old stuff."

At a season's end, the store marks down all discontinued items. Unlike some dealers, it displays these items well, to the disapproval of some vendor reps. "If they say anything, they say that old stuff needs to be in the back shoved in the corner with no lighting on it," Nathan says. "But we want this stuff to move, too."

The Reeves do not allow vendor reps to order for them, in contrast to some dealers who like this service. "But if you go into other dealers," Marion notes, "there's a lot of stuff sitting around with dust on it because that rep loved to sell it, but that doesn't mean it's going to sell out your door. We're all working the floor, and we can see what we need." The Reeves order from their main suppliers every day.

All this effort has resulted in a PG&A selection for which some people will travel two hours. Sometimes people arrive with a vehicle they just bought at another dealership. Off-roaders whose normal dealers are closed on Sunday frequently show up for a repair part.

The store's large casual selection caters to a broad clientele, especially during the holidays. "We have a fresh new customer base that comes in," Nathan explains. "Grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads, even wives who don't come in besides this time of year. They don't ride themselves but they're buying for people who do. And then they see all the casuals, things they may be interested in. So it really builds the base."

Adds Justin: "A lot of times the girls are dragging their boyfriends in here to look at the new women's clothing. So we feel successful at that."

For special orders, RevSport! doesn't accept returns and requires full payment up front. The store does not discount current items, with the notable exception of tires. Likewise, it does not offer racer discounts. Says Marion, who himself races vintage bikes: "I learned that if you sponsor one, two or three, you make those guys happy, but then you've got 20 or 30 more people who are unhappy because you didn't sponsor them."

The store sponsors local tracks instead. A big announcement at press time was that RevSport! will have a large booth at the Lucas Oil Indy Mile AMA Flat Track Grand National taking place the same week as the MotoGP.

A final example of how the store keeps things simple: It doesn't accept personal checks.

In exchange for strict policies, RevSport! offers great customer service. Usually someone is at the door to greet customers, and the store has a "15 Rule": All walk-ins must be greeted within 15 seconds or before they walk 15 feet. A minifridge in the showroom is stocked with free water. As soon as special orders arrive and are verified, somebody calls the buyers. This friendly atmosphere has led Linda to refer to many store regulars as "our boys."

Only one size of each boot and helmet is on display. The rest are kept in a stock room. This means an employee must help customers with size and fitment, leading to fewer returns and more chances to upsell. "There are so many items that we carry that people don't even know of," Nathan says. "You really do have to educate them." To this end, the Reeves regularly attend vendor seminars (and even learn about brands they don't carry).

A reluctance to discount current items and strict return policies may remind some readers of the Reeves' favorite distributor. Says Marion: "Fred Fox is in the selling and warehousing business, not the shipping business, and that's the same with us. We're here to sell this stuff, not ship it back to someone. We lose money when we return things."

Nathan believes Parts' business practices enable it to have superior fill rates. "I know they catch a lot of flak from smaller dealers and just dealers in general because of their strict policies," he says, "but for people like us who try to stock absolutely everything that we can, it helps us out a lot."