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Dec. 24, 2007 – An early Christmas gift: Early snow boosts sales in Midwest

January 2, 2008
Filed under Features

Lynn Keilor
Snow Editor
A rare blast of early season snow over much of the country has snowmobile dealers scrambling to keep up with customer demand.
Ever since Dennis Granger got into the snowmobile business five years ago, he’s been hoping for a December like this one.
He’s a co-owner of Grangers LLC, a Ski-Doo dealership in Tomah, Wis. “This is the best December we’ve ever had,” he said.
Tomah, in the southern third of Wisconsin, has seen the effect of the early December snow that fell on much of the Midwestern and Eastern snowmobile states. Customers and sales have gone hand-in-hand at many dealerships.
Of course, the increase in sales could have something to do with a recent drop in interest rates, says David Glassman, vice president of Tousley Motorsports in White Bear Lake, Minn. “But I don’t think the motorsports consumer is savvy enough to follow the interest rates,” he said. “I’ve been trying to put my finger on what drives sales, and it really has to do with the outdoor weather. If it’s raining outside, I know we’re going to get a day of nothing but construction workers.”

Unit Sales Up
Since the first of the month, Granger’s sold 10 new machines and cleared out quite a few 2007s and used stock. He thinks he could have sold more ’08s but deliveries have been late, so he’s been selling the models he has.
“We always just hope we run out by the first part of January,” Granger said. “If sales continue like they have been, we’ll be pretty close to that.”
Jake Wedge, general manager at Ray’s Sport & Cycle in Grand Rapids, Minn., says December sales between this year and last year are a night-and-day difference. The Ski-Doo and Yamaha dealership has sold mostly Ski-Doos so far this month, both new and non-current ‘07s. He says he’s seeing a good dent in the dealership’s used and non-current inventory.
Non-current machines seem to be the best sellers among the dealers, especially for Ski-Doos. Recall issues have slowed the production line, and dealers are still waiting for delivery on some popular 600cc units.
Tousley Motorsports, which sells Arctic Cat, Ski-Doo and Yamaha, is on pace for a 244 percent increase from year-over-year December sales. As of Dec. 9, the dealership had sold 22 new or non-current, non-registered machines and is on pace to sell 71. Last December, the dealership sold 29.
“We have surpassed last December’s total month production of used snowmobile sales in the first nine selling days of this month,” he said. For used machines, the company has sold 14 units so far and is projecting 45 — a 347 percent increase from the 13 it sold last December.
Even with the projected increase, it still isn’t close to the December 2000 numbers, the last year Minnesota had measurable snow in early December. Tousley sold 152 units in one month that year.
With a sharp decrease in manufacturer build and a good start to the snowmobile selling season, is it possible that demand will overwhelm the supply?
“I don’t think so,” Glassman said. “We’re seeing some degree of that with the clothing, but there are so many snowmobiles out in the field that there’s going to be no shortage. Arctic Cat has just a ton of units, and Yamaha just called and asked if we’d buy some more.”

PG&A Sales Up, Service Busy
Up until the snowfall, which started on Dec. 1, the service department at Ray’s Sport & Cycle was a quiet area. Not any more. “We’re about a week out,” Wedge said.
For Granger’s service department, he sees a calm before the storm. Wisconsin trails officially opened later this year because of an extended hunting season. Trails opened on Dec. 10. “By the weekend, we should have all kinds of broken stuff,” he said.
Sales are swift with parts, garments and accessories, too.
“Last year we couldn’t even sell oil,” Granger said. Not so this season.
At Tousley, parts that have collected dust for nearly two years are being pulled off the shelf and sold, Glassman says. He expects a 135 percent increase in PG&A sales this December.
The holiday buying season certainly plays into December sales, but Glassman says he notices a difference between the gift buyer — who will maybe buy a T-shirt — and the people who are making purchases for immediate use. He says he completely outfitted a husband and wife who were heading to their Wisconsin cabin. “People feel they have to take advantage when the snow is on the ground,” he said.

Who’s Buying?
Familiar faces are making their way back to the dealerships.
“There are all kinds of people buying,” Wedge said, particularly people upgrading their machines or re-entering the sport.
Glassman notices shoppers are still price-conscious. Tousley’s offer of zero down, zero percent financing and zero initial payment has attracted some buyers, as well.

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