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Pro Italia adds store to add to Euro heritage

Dave McMahon, Editor-in-Chief
March 6, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Triumph dealership opened in January

The newly opened, 2,800-square-foot Pro Italia Triumph shop sits beneath medical suites just three blocks from the flagship store.

And after some near misses in attempting to acquire more space for Pro Italia, 2013 has been just what the doctor ordered for the two all-Euro stores in Los Angeles County.

“We’ve wanted the Triumph brand for three years,” principal Bill Nation said. “My partner, Bob Berkow and I, went to the new dealer school a few years ago and just could not find space to put it in. We had three false starts trying to make deals with some of the stores right around us. So we love being here.”

But when a brand-new, never-been-occupied building finished construction in Glendale, Nation and Berkow were determined to make it their store’s new home. After some added construction inside, the new Triumph franchise had a storefront home. They’ve since moved Moto Guzzi bikes into the new digs as well.

First tenant
With a fresh five-year lease in place, Pro Italia Triumph capitalized on renting from a bank-owned building that was in search of its first tenant.

“They spent a lot on helping us with the build-out,” Nation said.

Now, the sparkling glare of the new building already has him thinking big thoughts for the older location.

“We’ve owned the other building since 1998, and it’s way overdo for a refreshing. The new place makes the other building look pretty ragged,” he said.

But with the most successful year in the dealership’s history — up 11 percent — in the books for 2012, it’s an ideal time for some renovations.

“It was our best year, by far,” said Nation, who entered the business in 1987. “We finally had targets for sales, and ran it much more like a business. It worked. We spiffed employees if we hit certain targets, and everybody got on board to try to make those numbers.”

Nation has proof that creating goals works, because even with what he calls flattish unit sales of motorcycles, the store still capitalized.

“Our overall parts and accessories margin gained because we bought better,” said Nation, who has watched his P&A margin rise to 28 percent, from 21 percent. “We hired a guy to run P&A purchasing, and we’ve been buying deeper, getting better pricing, and making better margin. We’re not buying all kinds of brands and lines. We concentrate on Ducati Performance, and we’ve gone in deeper with Dianese. We’re too small to be a discount shop, it’s just not our business model.”

Pro Italia Triumph sits below a swath of medical offices in a newly constructed building. Principal Bill Nation had failed to secure a building space in three previous attempts at expansion.

Winter opening
The December/January opening was not ideal timing, but Nation said many customers who come to his store alongside the Angeles Crest Highway are making purchases. In fact, he retailed 10 Moto Guzzi bikes out of the new location in its first month in business.

“The good news is that we opened at that time, and that’s the bad news,” Nation said. “It’s like ‘Woohoo, we opened. Now, where is everyone?’”

More than 20 motorcycles fit on the showroom floor, but all service work is completed at the flagship store, which sells Aprilia, Ducati and MV Augusta. Nation estimates he will need to make two additional hires in sales and apparel at the Triumph location, joining the two staffers already in place.

The new store’s showroom features a complete representation of Triumph models, including, yes, cruisers.

“You’re right, cruisers are a new field for us,” Nation said. “Triumph is a new frontier for us in that way, and it’ll be a challenge. The retro bikes are no problem for us.”

Familiar brand

There’s no mistaking that Pro Italia stores are places where folks like to relax and enjoy the company of fellow riders — and their four-legged friends.

Even so, Nation has been familiar enough with other Triumph dealers to know that it’s a brand that can enhance the dealership. In fact, Pro Italia sold Triumph motorcycles until 2001. Ever since, the dealership point has been open in the area.

“We kept hemming and hawing about us wanting to grow, and we know Triumph is a big brand,” Nation said. “They were patient and to their credit they waited for the right person to jump in, that was us.”

Nation and Berkow have been doing business together for more than a quarter-century, when Berkow started buying bikes from Nation. Berkow, who lives in New York City, liked the business so much that in 2009, he became a partner.

“In the year before that I looked around and was having problems around here,” Nation said. “We sold a lot of Desmosedicis for $65,000. You sell 20 of those and that masked a lot of the problems we were having.”

Berkow, meanwhile, joined the team and made an immediate impact on the store’s online business, not to mention the business side of the business. The store now has four employees whose roles are dedicated to Internet sales.

“It has nicely evened out the highs and lows you get in the motorbike business,” Nation said of the online revenue stream.

Grand opening

Pro Italia Triumph sits three blocks from the original Pro Italia store in L.A. County.

The grand opening in late January featured a band, beer and food. All bikes were cleared out of the store, with a handful placed appropriately on the sidewalk in front of the store.

A warehouse that has been use for storage sits in close proximity to the new Triumph store, and Nation is anxious to be able to use that real estate at some point.

“It’s kind of our cave, where we have bikes that are put together. We try to prep everything we have so that we don’t store crates.”

And Nation hopes that when customers start to flock to the sparkling new digs, there will be an ideal number of bikes to uncrate.

 

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