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Spring sales vary depending on region, brands

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Andy Swanson, Contributing Writer
April 10, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Wisconsin dealer gets massive spring sales boost; others slow

After this winter has brought consistent snow cover for Roger Anderson’s customers at R&S Motorsports, he feels good about being in the snowmobile business. His Shawano, Wis.-based dealership sells new and used sleds from Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha, and long-track machines have been especially popular this year.

“We’ve kind of seen a resurgence again with all of the snowfall around. There is a lot of interest in RMKs even though we’re a flatland state,” Anderson said. “I believe it’s because we’re getting more than a few inches of snow. People are more interested in the off-trail riding up in the [Michigan] U.P., maybe even northern Minnesota.”

Inventory moving

Anderson said the strong selling season means his store will carry a smaller inventory into next fall. Unit numbers are low compared to the last several years, he said, and his supply of parts, accessories and oil is dramatically less.

“It’s a combination of ordering less, but actually selling more. It really has run inventories down to where they should be, or lower, which puts us in a position to buy,” Anderson said.

Because of the smaller on-hand inventory, R&S Motorsports will place bigger pre-season orders this spring than it has in the past few years, Anderson said.

Spring sales of new sleds have trended down — off 70 percent from the past at Anderson’s store, he said — but Anderson credits solid lineups and special models that have people ordering model year 2014 snowmobiles at a faster clip than last year.

R&S Motorsports in Wisconsin has benefitted from steady snow cover to see spring sales of 2014 models increase at a much higher rate compared to 2013 models.

March this year, R&S Motorsports had written up orders for more 2014 snowmobiles from one brand than it did with all four manufacturers combined last year.

“It is really product driven. If it’s a product you can only order in the spring and a consumer truly believes he will only get it if he spring-orders it — to me, that’s what drives our sales. The majority of the models I have sold so far have been a spring-only snowmobile.”

While the snowmobiles and technology are enticing, nothing is effective as normal winter weather to push customers through the door.

“When there’s snow, everybody’s happier and people are enjoying it. And I think a lot of people are coming back. I’ve seen a lot of people that I haven’t seen in years coming back in the store to look at snowmobiles.”

Keep ’em riding

Anderson plans to keep those customers coming back next season by hosting weeknight rides and open house events.

“If you’re going to be in this business, you definitely have to be engaged in the fun part of it. I truly believe that the manufacturers have the right products — all of them, they’re all doing a good job — and people want to ride. People definitely want to ride, but I don’t think a lot of people have really, truly experienced what great snowmobiling is with this new product and the trail system that we have. It’s an incredible experience.”

Inventory too high

In other parts of the country, at least one dealer faces the challenges caused by high inventories that prevent spring sales, while another shop struggles to sell sleds in a highly competitive segment.

With new snowmobiles from the four manufacturers for sale at Jackman Powersports in Jackman, Maine, store owner David Jones said it’s impossible to sell his entire inventory every season.

“I’ve got more leftovers, probably, than most people even buy,” he said.

It’s been the norm for the last three years for his inventory not to be at a level with which he’s comfortable because he buys a lot of product in order to get financing.

“If you don’t buy what they want you to buy, then you don’t get the programs and you don’t get the interest assistance. It becomes very tough.”

Jackman Powersports used to sell more than 100 snowmobiles during spring promotions without blinking an eye, but over the past few years spring sales have dropped dramatically.

“There are too many sleds on the marketplace,” Jones said. “A lot of our customers just don’t bother. They buy them at the end of the year instead of the beginning of the year.”

The only way to clean out the pipeline, Jones said, is to have two or three good winters in a row. “As soon as there’s not a lot of sleds left at the end of the season, spring sales will, I think, double very easily.”

Promotional letdown

Snapped up for utility use at local ski resorts, the Yamaha Venture Lite and RS Viking Professional snowmobiles are good sellers for Handlebar Motorsports in Durango, Colo., but when it comes to selling sleds to aggressive mountain riders, store operations manager Jon Carmack said most of them opt for the Arctic Cat ProClimb M 800 models that are also for sale at his shop.

“We are still a predominantly two-stroke snowmobile dealer. The two-strokes do a far better job in the mountain west than do the four-strokes,” he said.

But even though Arctic Cat two-stroke snowmobiles are still popular in the mountains, Carmack said Arctic Cat hasn’t done enough to hype its M Series sleds.

“I think the biggest problem with the M 800 is that Cat did a very poor job of promoting that product. They lost both Chris Burandt and Bret Rasmussen as sponsored riders, and a lot of people in the mountain west who are aggressive, backcountry riders watch what those guys ride, and it affects sales. I think Arctic Cat really shot themselves in the foot by letting those guys get away.”

 

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