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July 2, 2007: Year 2007 vs. year 2006: Where are we sales-wise?

July 2, 2007
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For the past 12 months we have reported same store sales in another section of this magazine. That report focuses on the month-by-month changes in market sales and provides great insight into the state of the market for any given month.

But I recall many times sitting at my desk, looking at the sales figures for the month and wondering just how we were really doing. I could see that we were behind this month last year, but how did these numbers stack up for the year to date?

You can come up with a thousand reasons explaining why your customers are not in the store: It’s too hot. It’s too cold. The army base shipped out to Iraq. It’s back to school. We had rain all week. The list goes on and on.

But the bottom line is, if they don’t come in this week, will they show up next week?

That’s why the year-to-date numbers are so important. No week will ever equal last year’s week to the penny. March will not always equal March. But as the year wears on, sales year to date are amazingly consistent. You can generally count on the same percent of the year’s sales being in at each month marker, and because of this, you can usually predict the year when you are about halfway through.

In January, our same store sales report showed that 2007 fell 15 percent below January of 2006. February lagged by 10 percent, and those who knew, panicked. March came in 8 percent above and (again, those who knew) breathed a sigh of relief. But April took it away with a deficit of 10 percent. May came within a point of matching 2007, and that was great, but the real question is, where are we for the year?

Charts on this page answer this question.

I have chosen 111 dealers for whom we have continuous data for the past 25 months. They are from all over the country, include all sizes and all makes and booked about a half-billion in sales through May. When I line them up in the right order, I can see exactly where we are for total store sales at the end of May. And the news is not as bad as it was back in January and February. Then, we were looking at 15 percent behind. But now, after some hard work and some better riding weather, I can say that we are within 4.7 percent of last year.

Yes, less than 5 percent behind. We can make that up with one hand tied behind our back. We can do this standing on our head. We can do this… well, you get the picture. Sure, January, February and April sucked, but March and May did just fine.

So quit mopin’ and get back to selling. Fold this magazine up, throw it on the desk and get back out there. Call a sales meeting. Pull a hundred out of your wallet and wave it under some noses as a hot spiff for the next real deal. Walk up to a customer at the door and stick out your hand. Smile.

You can do it. We all can do it.

Happy selling.

Hal Ethington has been associated with the powersports industry for more than 30 years. Ethington is a senior analyst at ADP?Lightspeed. He can be reached at Hal_ethington@adp.com

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