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September 24, 2007 – Is it worth the time and effort?

September 24, 2007
Filed under Features

The largest snowmobile consumer show of the year — what many in the Midwest hail as the start of the snowmobile sales season — took place in Columbus, Minn., Sept. 8-9.
Dealers, manufacturers and vendors took up a large swath of the event’s 85 acres, sharing it with a grass drag competition, a freestyle demonstration track and an especially large swap meet area.
Attendance was up from last year, said event organizer John Seviola. He declined to give a final figure, but recent past events have had 30,000-40,000 attendees.
Judging by the crowd, one would not guess new unit snowmobile sales are in a slump. Vendors, in general, were satisfied with sales at the event and impressed with consumer optimism.
We talked with three dealers about their experiences at this year’s event.
Danner Sales,
Inver Grove Heights, Minn.

Patti Cashman, the apparel manager at Danner Sales, arrived at the Haydays grounds at noon Friday, and by Sunday morning, had barely ventured from the company’s tent space. She had spent the past two nights in an RV parked behind the booth.
She ran into some problems during set-up on Friday, which made her question if it was even worth her time to be there — but Saturday’s sales made up for the trouble.
The tent is set up with non-current soft goods; a few snowmobiles sit outside the tent entrance. The biggest sellers have been the trinkets, which include video games and computer mice that look like a snow globe. Helmets and boots have been the other items of primary interest. She has also sold five snowmobiles.
It’s been six years since Danner Sales has set up shop at Haydays, mostly because the event comes at a bad time of year for the dealership and nobody had time to tackle the project. However, slower snow sales have freed up some time, and there was some non-current inventory that needed to be moved.
There are other plans to help move inventory, as Cashman said traffic into the retail location has been dwindling. The company has set up an online store at eBay and will soon sell consumer-direct on its Web site, www.dannersales.com.
Cashman said the general mood of the Haydays customer has been “friendly, happy, in the mood for snow and anxious to get out and ride.”
Spicer’s Boat City,
Houghton Lake, Mich.

Even though Spicer’s is based in Michigan’s lower peninsula, Greg Schreiber talks marketing strategy. When a customer buys something, he puts the purchase into a white plastic bag that says Spicer’s. He’ll then offer a Spicer’s-labeled bottle of water. He gives away pens with Spicer’s name and phone number, and business cards are stacked near the cash register.
“We have a big Internet business,”?he said. “We have to hand things out so people in Minnesota know who we are.”
Spicer’s Boat City is among the largest dealerships in Michigan, and sells Arctic Cat, Polaris and Ski-Doo snowmobiles, as well as ATVs and boats. Schreiber came to Haydays to sell outerwear, and said “a little bit of everything”?is selling.
This is Schreiber’s first time setting up at Haydays, and while he was overwhelmed with the size and scope of the event, he thought he would have more traffic in his booth. He called sales “decent.”
Time will tell whether it was worth the effort to do the show:?he’ll have to balance the numbers between the Snowmobile USA show in Novi, Mich., typically the dealership’s best-yielding show, and the others they attend throughout the season.
“The customers here are price-conscious, which they are at all the shows.”?Schreiber said. “And because of the way the event’s designed, it’s mostly all cash.”
M&M Lawn & Leisure,
Rushford, Minn.

It’s odd to think an event such as Haydays could produce regular customers, but owner Mike Burns said he has one fellow who’s bought six machines from him at the event in the past three years. He’s also gained a loyal following in Central Iowa.
“They don’t have a Polaris dealer in their area, so if they’re going to drive 100 miles, why not 200 miles?” he said.
Burns brought 72 used machines to Haydays and sold 25 of them on Saturday. In his best-case scenario, he wanted to sell 45 machines total — up from the 34 he cleared out last year. He’s sold equipment at Haydays for eight years — the last five years at the same spot. It’s the only show he feels that’s worth attending.
While he’s a Polaris dealer, he brings a variety of trade-ins and other used inventory to Haydays to make for a more colorful display that appeals to all riders.
There wasn’t one type of machine hotter than another, he said, noting his sales included Polaris Fusions and Switchbacks, various four-strokes and a Ski-Doo MX Z 500.
While Haydays is known for its deal-hunting clientele and bargaining banter, Burns said he doesn’t change prices from his dealership to his Haydays spot. Customers don’t seem to notice. “It’s a perception thing,”?he said. “They think it will be cheaper because it’s Haydays.”
He says he refuses to talk the “no snow”?conversation with his customers, citing it’s a morale breaker. “Snowmobilers in general are optimists,” he said, “and the people at Haydays are die-hards.”
Sales at the dealership also are going well. His goal is to sell between 100-120 units by the end of September. “We’ll be there easily,” he said. psb

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