SNOWMOBILE POWER PRO – Garneau’s Garage
February 14, 2005
Filed under Features
Twin Mountain, NH 03595-0066
Wayne and Harold Garneau
Harold (the elder of this father-son team) founded the business in 1952, and it became a franchise in 1969. The 12,000-sq.-ft. dealership — in the third building of its history, within 100 yards of the first — carries Ski-Doo snowmobiles and Bombardier ATVs. Largest-selling segment is snowmobile. Four employees full-time, year-round, and six or seven in the Winter.
“Land use is probably the biggest issue I see on the horizon,” says Wayne Garneau. “People come to this area to snowmobile, hunt, or fish on other peoples’ land year after year. Then they decide, ‘This is great. I’ll buy my own piece of land, rather than just visit.’ Then they shut off their property to other people. Land is getting gobbled up. Snowmobiling is such a popular sport now. When everyone gets congested into one area because of snow conditions, things get out of control and people ride where they’re not supposed to. When there’s snow everywhere, more trails are open and people spread out, so we have fewer problems.”
“In snowmobile sales we pretty much have parity throughout the line, but the Ski-Doo GSX models are very popular, as are the MXZ Renegade and the Mach Z — we sold all of those we could get,” says Garneau. “In ATVs we’ve done okay with the children’s DS90 and the Outlander, but ATVs aren’t really big in this area. The White Mountains National Forest doesn’t allow any ATV riding, and we really have no local trails. For the most part we’re selling ATVs to established customers using them on their own land to take hay to the horses, plow the driveways, or travel to a campsite. Some people do trailer them to trailheads.” What about PG&A? “Since we’ve been a dealer so long, and carry just one brand, we have a large parts inventory — even for the older snowmobiles. Also, we sell a lot of service parts to people working on their own vehicles, and we ship out a fair amount. This is a destination store, so once there’s snow and people are riding, clothing and accessory sales pick up a bit.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Garneau says his store’s clientele consists of families — “not a lot of the performance-type customer. It’s probably split 60% tourists from 100-plus miles away, 40% local. The average customer is 30 to 50 years old and has a wife and kids. A very large part of our market used to be two-up sleds. The Rev platform’s one-plus-one seat configuration has taken a big bite out of traditional two-up sled sales. Riders pop on the two-up seat when they need to. People don’t keep snowmobiles quite as long as they used to; they’re turning them over and riding the most current models. We see a lot of cash sales. Since we’re extremely small, we don’t work with any banks—just Bombardier financing. Many of my customers are in the construction businesses, which are busy in the Summer. They save up through that season then ride in the Winter. They don’t finance the toys too much.”
Garneau says anti-powersports/land-use issues are “always a challenge. The is a very fast-growing area for second-home sales because people are investing in land rather than the stock market. So much land has been sold that it’s a challenge rerouting trails.” The dealership is active in the Twin Mountain Snowmobile Club.
PARTS AND SERVICE
Garneau’s workforce tends to be cross-trained in most areas. “in Winter we pick up one or two more service technicians. We stay on top of service updates and have a pretty fair reputation. Our Ski-Doo CSI scores for service are always fairly high. And we don’t do any performance work at all. We just concentrate on keeping these vehicles running the way the factory wants them to.” How does Garneau’s Garage make it through the rest of the year if it’s basically a snowmobile dealer? “We also sell a fair amount of different kinds of trailers — snowmobile and utility, open and enclosed. We’re a Wells Cargo franchise. And we’re an automotive garage, which is how we started in 1952. Also, we store snowmobiles in a back building where they’re racked up three high. We average 50 to 60 sleds in storage — some year-round, some just for the Winter, some just for the Summer — so people don’t have to trailer them. At the end of the weekend we put them away in a heated building and do service work, if needed.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Garneau says he doesn’t do a tremendous amount of advertising. “In different years we try different media, but for the most part — being here as long as we have — word-of-mouth is all we need.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Take care of the customers and they’ll take care of you,” advises Garneau. “And keep the margins up. Don’t sell vehicles just to make the numbers. Sell to make profit so you can keep the lights on.”
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