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June 2, 2003 – Parts Pro

June 2, 2003
Filed under Features

COLUMBIA MOTOR SPORTS LLC

111 Route 66 E
Columbia, Conn. 06237
Ph: 860/228-1900
Fax: 860/228-2318

PARTS MANAGER
Chip Slater

THE STORE
Three-year-old store carries Yamaha motorcycles, ATVs, scooters, generators; Suzuki motorcycles and ATVs; and Bombardier ATVs; 18 employees. Open 9:00-6:30 p.m. Mon-Fri; 9:00-3:30 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.

CAREER
Slater had no industry experience prior to joining Columbia in 2001. A motorcycle enthusiast, he says he decided to enter the field to “pursue my interests.”

THE PARTS DEPARTMENT
Five employees; two full-time. Moved over $100,000 in parts during April 2003. Slater estimates the parts department takes up about one third of the building. All orders for the service department go through Slater, too.

LAYOUT
The parts department is located in the back of the store, two steps up from the main showroom. Connected to the service department and stock room. Parts are showcased on the wall behind the counter, apparel is racked, helmets are positioned in glass cases courtesy of Yamaha.

MANAGEMENT
Slater makes orders daily through OEMs and aftermarket distributors, works with customers, and spearheads PG&A layout and upkeep. Columbia is not a computerized retailer, and Slater depends on hard copy. “It’s all paper trail,” he says, “and can really become overwhelming at month’s end.” He says he inherited the filing system from his predecessor, and says there are no plans to update it. “A lot of times,” he says, “a computer will lock up on you and cause all sorts of problems, so having a paper trail is necessary anyway.”
Slater says every day is a learning experience, and says the department is slowly updating and perfecting its processes to meet both business demands and customer expectations.

DEALING WITH DISTRIBUTORS
Works with Parts Unlimited, Tucker Rocky, Sullivan’s, K&K and NAC’s, among others. Slater says 90% of the orders he makes are “special orders.” The most common difficulty

Slater says he encounters are special shipments not received in a timely manner. He says a couple of the OEMs Columbia works with are having problems with backorders. He pinpoints Sullivan’s as an above-average aftermarket distributor to deal with.

WHAT’S HOT
“We’re going through a lot of everything for every market,” Slater says. “A lot of ATV parts — sport and utility — a lot of accessories for all of the street cruisers, and a lot of sport bike stuff.” Top products, he says, include sport bike tail kits; exhausts by Micron; gear by Fox and O’Neal; and helmets by HJC, Shoei and Fulmer. “The number of ATV helmets we move is just incredible,” he said.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE
“Trying to get all of the orders done each day,” he says. “The volume we’re doing right now is amazing.”

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