Dealers losing interest in powersports industry events: Survey

  • Mary Green
  • Nov 02, 2017

One in three Dealers didn’t attend any industry event in the last year. What would prompt them to go again?


DEALERS are losing interest in powersports industry events they say aren’t vital to their businesses.

But they’d reconsider, if an event 1) debuted new products; 2) provided opportunities to speak with aftermarket, distributor and OEM executives; 3) offered education providing tangible business benefits; and 4) was held at a more convenient time of year.

The online survey was conducted in September and October, and incorporates responses from 160 franchised Dealers, independent retailers and service/performance/custom shops across the United States. Franchised Dealers accounted for roughly 60 percent of respondents. Nearly half (42 percent) of respondents said their businesses are selling up to 600 new and used units a year, 27 percent between 600 and 1,000 vehicles a year, and 29 percent said they are selling more than 1,000 new and pre-owned vehicles annually.

Nearly a third of Dealers/retailers surveyed by Dealernews said they had not attended any industry-related event in the last 12 months – not a national show, a distributor event or even an OEM meeting. Nearly half of small shops (employing fewer than 10 people) said they did not attend any event.

Of those who attended one or more industry events, 44 percent said they had gone to their respective OEM Dealer meetings; 28 percent said they had attended the MIC-produced AIMExpo, and 23 percent said they had attended one or more distributor shows. The percentage of respondents attending the recent AIMExpo jumped to 39.3 percent for those located in Midwest, South Central and Mid-Atlantic states, closest to the Columbus, OH, show, which was held Sept. 21-24.

Holding an industry event during selling season, holding it on days when stores are open, and presenting product showcases where, Dealers say, little new product is introduced are main reasons for the their disinterest. Dealers said they want to attend expositions where product is making its worldwide (or at least North American) debut and is not already in the distributor catalogs.

“The demand on dealerships today with ever-changing programs, recalls… too many models, OEM and aftermarket rep visitations, is tremendous,” one Dealer said. “There are just too many things that we Dealers are required to do now to be ‘certified,’ and then [we] go to another meeting to find out that 90 percent of the stuff you are seeing has already been presented previously.”

Despite this, three out of four respondents say they would spend two days or longer at an industry event they considered “compelling,” and nearly half (47 percent) said distance is “not an issue” if the event is compelling enough to attend. One in 10 respondents said they cannot afford any time away from the business.

So what defines a “compelling” industry event for today’s powersports retailer? For starters, content and features must provide a clear, immediate, tangible business benefit. Features like a Hall of Fame, a VIP keynote address, a companion race or rally, or even a Dealer awards program? Not so much, respondents said. These features “interest me very much, and I have traveled across the country for races, but as an employee and not an owner I cannot use my desire to see a race as a reason to be paid to attend a show,” one Dealer associate commented.

Dealernews asked respondents to rate event features according to their importance – meaning, what an event must provide for them to attend. First and foremost, Dealers attend events to see and evaluate products that are just being introduced, and then to discuss business with aftermarket, distributor and OEM executives. Second, they seek specific business and product training – not only for the items they sell, but also for the systems they use.

Events need “new, innovative, smaller manufacturers. Bring in the new stuff, not the same-old-same-old,” one respondent said.

What features must an event present for you to attend? Participant ratings on a scale of 5 (most important) to 1 (least important)

  • Look for new product lines: 4.04 rating

  • Meet with aftermarket brands: 3.85 rating

  • Meet with distributors: 3.81 rating

  • Product-specific training – how to order, inventory, sell and market, directly from the respective aftermarket brands: 3.59 rating

  • Business operations seminars: 3.35 rating

  • Meet with OEM executives: 3.35 rating

  • Leadership/management seminars: 3.18 rating

  • Vehicle technical training: 3.17 rating

  • Meet other Dealers/retailers: 2.91 rating

  • Business systems training (CRM, DMS, etc.): 2.78 rating

  • Regulatory/compliance forum: 2.71 rating

The lowest-rated features were vehicle demo rides, a companion rally or race, an industry hall of fame ceremony, a VIP keynote speaker, and a Dealer awards/recognition program. Small Dealers (with fewer than 10 employees) were more likely to rank vehicle demo rides higher and business systems training lower.

When an event is held may be the most important factor of all for a retailer who finds it difficult to leave the store during the warmer months. “Why have an event when we are still in the middle of the selling season?” one respondent commented.

The best time of year to hold an industry event, respondents say, is in first quarter. February was the top choice, rating 10.3 out of a possible 12 points on a ranking scale, followed closely by January at 10.27. Next highest was November (8.06), October (7.67), September (7.27) and March (6.55). December, August, April, July, June and May were considered the worst months for retailers to attend an event.

Some seasonal challenges may be buffeted by organizers if they host events on days when many shops are closed to the public. Said one respondent: “Timing is everything. Motorcycle shops are closed Sundays and Mondays. If you want attendance, this is when you have your show – this is when you have your show!”


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