Service merchandising: A store within a store

Publish Date: 
May 23, 2011

When Jay Cheesman first started working as a service consultant for Conrad Harley-Davidson, a Top 100 dealer in Shorewood, Ill., he noticed that the service department was, um, a little bland.

It’s large quarters, 40-foot ceilings and unused wall space seemed to him like a “big box,” with a single service menu adorning one wall. They also had just installed some slatwall, but no one had stepped up to create a display.

“I started doing the merchandising,” he says. Up went artful displays of luggage performance exhausts, wheels, maintenance and accessories. A flat-screen TV was installed to broadcast service specials and other store information. Glass cases were brought in for showcasing chrome and powdercoated accessories. Even apparel and vehicles, the latter of which he outfits with accessories to further entice potential buyers.

“Right now we have a 2011 model with a custom Boom! Audio system on it,” Cheesman says. “We have the radio playing throughout the day, so customers can listen to the sound quality. Customers want to upgrade eventually, so some just end up just buying the whole vehicle instead.”

It’s basically a store-within-a-store concept, Cheesman says, and the difference in sales has been night and day, with new products being snapped up fast. Displays were at first changed on a monthly basis, but soon the staff would freshen them up on almost a weekly basis. “It’s about not losing the customer’s attention, and piquing their interest on products they don’t know about,” he says. “And you’re getting that impulse buy.”

The displays are especially helpful on busy days, when customers have to stand in line. Recently, Cheesman and co. set up a display for new Harley-Davidson drainpans. “The drainpans were selling left and right,” he says. “Basically, I tell my parts department that if there’s anything they want to sell, just put it in the service area, and it will sell.”

Signage helps, too. Cheesman uses a mix of Harley-Davidson signage (“it has a great online dealer resource,” he says) and makes his own (neon, and laminate) to attract a customer’s eye. “Anything that’s going to help get the customer’s attention,” he says.

But beside merchandising, Cheesman also credits the sales training that service writers receive as an integral part of their equation for success. “It’s an equal part of our job up front,” Cheesman says. “We’re not just advising on service, we’re salesmen, too.” — Cynthia Furey

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews June 2011 issue.