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Snow Cat Country – Westown, NY – March 10, 2003

March 10, 2003
Filed under Power Profiles

CONTACT
915 Route 284
Westown, NY 10998
845/726-3444

OWNER
Richard Vogt

BUSINESS PROFILE
5,000-sq.-ft. dealership on 20 acres, founded at present location in 1969; Vogt worked for the previous owner and bought him out in 1996. In the southeast corner of New York, 75 miles from Manhattan, nine miles from New Jersey, and nine miles from Pennsylvania. Carries Arctic Cat ATVs and snowmobiles. “Yes, we sold watercraft,” says Vogt. “Glad we got out of that business.” Largest-selling segment in the last two years has been ATVs. 15 employees.

GREATEST CONCERN
Vogt’s greatest concern is emissions regulations. “All the manufacturers are working toward it, but it’s going to be a big expense, no doubt. And of course the economy is a concern. It has only affected us by a small percentage. Some of the dealers closer to New York City were really impacted after the World Trade Center incident.

“On the other hand, some studies say that when the economy gets really bad, businesses like ours seem to prosper. Maybe people stay close to home and try a different sport. But the biggest factor is Mother Nature. Thank god we have good snow after last year, when we had none. This year it has been on the ground since Christmas. People at the Arctic factory in Minnesota say this is the third year in a row they’ve had no snow.”

WHAT’S HOT?
Sizzling at Snow Cat Country: Firecat snowmobiles and 400cc 4×4 ATVs. “We have more Arctic Cat parts and accessories than anybody in the East,” says Vogt. “We stock parts all the way back to 1970.” Although Snow Cat Country will sell parts by mail-order, Vogt advertises very little. “We’re so swamped, we couldn’t handle it.”

CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Vogt says most of his snowmobile customers are self-employed as electricians, plumbers, etc. “They do well in summer and take time in winter to play.”

He says the type of models sold “has changed so much over the years, it’s unbelievable. We sell a lot of machines in the high-performance category one year; the next year, a lot of family riders get back into it. In a good snow year — like this year — we sell a lot of two-up machines. When we have minimal snow, we may not have the families, but the die-hard snowmobilers are still at it.” There are no real established trails, so people take their sleds three hours north in to the Adirondacks.

As for ATVs, “there’s a wide variety of customers. This is a big hunting area, and folks use their ATVs for utility and recreation.” Snow Cat Country has no corporate ATV customers.

ANTI-POWERSPORTS ISSUES
“Any place you go anymore, everybody wants to make the land so that nobody can use it,” says Vogt. “We support every club the best that we can, but we’re getting fed up. Next year we’ll give every customer who buys a new machine a free membership in the New York State Snowmobile Association or an equivalent ATV club. Once most people get into clubs, they stay there and help promote the sport — get it back from the treehuggers, so to speak.”

PARTS AND SERVICE
Snow Cat Country has seven employees in service. “Our specialties are service, parts, and accessories,” says Vogt. “We don’t push performance work. We cater more to family trail riders, since we get more satisfaction out of it.”

Three years ago Vogt built a whole new service area. “We’ve expanded the parts department to three times the size it was before.” Is it paying off? “When I bought the dealership in 1996, we sold 68 sleds; last year we sold 200.”

WORDS OF ADVICE
“Our motto is, ‘Treat your customers like you were on the other side of the counter,’” says Vogt. “When people enter a dealership, they don’t want to be pressured — but they want to be recognized. Let them know you’re there, and if they need help, you’re available.”

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