House of Sports – Mason City, IA – March 31, 2003
March 31, 2003
Filed under Power Profiles
3431 4th Street SW
Mason City, Iowa, 50401
Jack and John Helgren (father and son)
“Dad starting selling sleds in 1966,” says John Helgren. “We took on Ski-Doo the season of 1982/1983, the last year Ski-Doo was number one.” 21,000 sq. ft. dealership, at the original location. Carries all Bombardier products except jet boats (Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo PWC, and Traxter ATVs), plus John Deere lawn and garden equipment, Grasshopper and Ariens lawnmowers, and Goodyear tires. “During a snowy year, sales will be one-third Ski-Doo, one-third ATVs, and one-third lawn and garden — a pretty good mix. But this year sled sales have been off due to lack of snow. And the Sea-Doo PWC have made a nice comeback for us during the last couple of years.” 12 employees.
Helgren’s greatest concerns are not attracting enough new people into the sport and manufacturers overloading the dealer network with product. “We have enough issues to deal with that we shouldn’t have to negotiate with the manufacturers over product numbers,” he says.
“We’re going to lose a lot of dealers in the Midwest this year because they were hung with too much inventory. That comes from dealer reps pressuring the dealers. There are no winners in that situation.
“On the first of November dealers were already giving away product because floorplans were coming due. This is a fun business — but it also needs to be a profitable business.”
One promotion Helgren likes: Buy now, no payments for a year. “Instead of rebates and merchandise, I would encourage the OEMs to provide that kind of program. Then maybe a consumer can sell their sled on their own, and not make the dealer take the trade. There’s a lot of used inventory out there.”
Rocking the House: “The REV snowmobiles have been outstanding,” says Helgren. “Last year we sold a lot of Renegades, and Ski-Doo will introduce a Renegade REV next year, so that will bring up the Renegade sales again.” As for PG&A, “The consumers tend to bend a lot of trailing arms, since we ride ditches around here. HJC and Ski-Doo snocross helmets have been really popular. The trend is back to that goggle-type setup.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
The average House of Sports customer is age 35 to 50, “but otherwise it’s a real cross-section of people,” says Helgren. “New-sled buyers are geared up to take trips. Many take saddlebag trips up north to Michigan or out west.
“We’re not attracting a lot of new people to the sport anymore — we see more repeat or returning customers. These folks like more of the creature comforts, such as sleds with reverse and electric start, and warm clothing. And we’ve seen a trend toward more lightweight equipment and better suspensions.”
Helgren says the dealership has “been blessed — no anti-powersports issues are prevalent at this time. Helgren would actually like to see more legislation in one area. “In Iowa, anybody 12 years or older can run any size boat or watercraft. We’d like to see some education. And not just kids — a lot of adults can benefit if they’ve never been on the water.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
House of Sports has three full-time service technicians, and one part-time, two of which are Bombardier-certified. There are “one-and-a-half” folks in parts. “There are five us who are cross-trained to function in all departments, to do what needs to be done,” says Helgren.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Don’t pay so much attention to the outside influences,” advises Helgren. “Just do what you do best—what has gotten you to where you are. Just keep steering the course.”