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Wilkins Harley-Davidson-Barre, Vt.-April 5, 2010

April 5, 2010
Filed under Power Profiles

BUSINESS PROFILE


Wilkins Harley-Davidson is hitting numbers that are practically unheard of in today’s market. In the past four years, the dealership has nearly doubled its sales. In 2009, it had its best year with about a 10 percent increase over 2008. On top of that, Co-owner and General Manager John Lyon says they hired two new people last year. The dealership is also the No. 1 ranked Harley-Davidson dealer in New England for customer service and has been for the past decade. How do they do it? Lyon says they have great employees. “We never lay anyone off. We’ll do crazy things in the winter to keep them, and we guarantee everyone 40 hours a week,” he said, adding the owners (him, his mother and grandmother) will take a pay cut if need be. The dealership also will take in work that they’ll only break even on just to keep the staff busy. “If we have to do a job at cost, we will do that,” he said. “The employees really appreciate it. The majority of our staff has been here for quite some time.”

GREATEST CONCERN

With the down economy, Lyon wants to make sure customers know Wilkins Harley-Davidson is still here and going strong. “We’re still having fun. This is a place to get away,” said Lyon. “Wilkins is going to be here for another 60 years.”

WHAT’S HOT

“The Ultra Limited,” Lyon said, referring to their most popular model. “We’re having difficulty keeping those in stock, which does not lend to the idea that we’ll increase the price just because we can’t keep it in stock. I’m a firm believer the price should be maintained regardless of the demand and whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter.”

CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS

Unlike most dealerships, Wilkins Harley-Davidson is still seeing growth. “We’re not going to have enough motorcycles this year to match the demand,” said Lyon. Despite the high demand, Lyon says they stay consistent with their prices, and their customers take notice. “We always have about a dozen sales a year where customers don’t even ask the price,” he said. “People have gotten used to us; they know we’re going to ask a fair price for everything.”

PARTS AND SERVICE

Wilkins Harley-Davidson makes it a priority to have all the necessity items in stock. For example, they carry every Harley-Davidson tire for 2005 and newer models. “If we don’t have it in stock, we’ll give the customer $100 gift card,” said Lyon. “If you have a flat tire, there are not a lot of places you can get a Harley-Davidson tire. If we’re not going to have it in stock, that’s a real downer for a traveler.” The staff goes to great lengths to get the customers whatever they need. Lyon says they go as far as driving to another dealership to get a part while the customer is walking around the store. “If we have to overnight something, we will,” he said. “I know it costs money. I see the bills come through. If you’re not going to be responsive to someone who’s buying a non-necessity, I just don’t think you’re going to grow.”

PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS

The money that would be spent on advertising is invested in the customers, whether it’s overnighting a part or getting cupcakes for a customer’s birthday. Lyon says a lot of the dealership’s business is referrals, so they want to spend the money on making the customers happy. The dealership also hosts the typical events, including garage parties, bike shows and chili cook-offs. “We had to have an electrician come in because we couldn’t handle the amount of crockpots coming in for this last one,” said Lyon. “All those things have grown.”

WORDS OF ADVICE

“Pretend like you’re a customer. I do that a lot here,” Lyon said. “My advice is to enjoy the Harley-Davidson world. It’s a top-of-the-line product. If you’re not, you should look at doing something different.”

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