Snowmobiling’s Super Bowl
Three dealers on why Haydays is a can’t-miss event
Snowmobile enthusiasts drive in from many U.S. states and Canadian provinces, often pulling a trailer packed with snowmobiles and odds and ends for sale, or empty in anticipation of returning home filled with purchases from the many dealers or swap meet vendors that set up shop on the sprawling farm fields in north-central Minnesota.
The annual event — organized by the Sno Barons Snowmobile Club and colloquially known as the official start of winter — is snowmobiling’s largest annual event that draws tens of thousands of visitors to the two-day show now in its 47th year.
Located an hour north of Minneapolis, east of North Branch near the Wisconsin border, Haydays attracts racers, riders and aftermarket companies, as well as dealers throughout the region looking to kick off the season’s sales with new and used machines, current and noncurrent riding gear and anything else that goes fast, burns gas or fits on a trailer.
Powersports Business attended both days of Haydays — the first blazingly hot and the second downright chilly — and spoke with several exhibitors and riders. As the event is a major draw for local dealers, we sat down with three dealership personnel for their take on snowmobiling’s largest, most exciting event.
Sauk Centre, MN
Aside from being a four-time Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby champ aboard Arctic Cat race sleds, most recently in 2011, P.J. Wanderscheid is the online sales manager at Minnesota-based Country Cat. For six consecutive years, Country Cat has kept a booth at Haydays to sell clothing, accessories and, primarily, non-current snowmobiles.
It’s an added expense that requires the efforts of approximately 15 of the dealership’s employees, yet it’s an invaluable event for selling gear and, most importantly, improving brand recognition and building a relationship with new customers.
PSB: How much work does it take to come to Haydays?
Wanderscheid: Several months, actually. It’s getting stuff ready, getting spreadsheets ready, how much are we going to discount stuff, what are we going to bring, buying beforehand, too. It’s probably a month of work start to finish for a couple people just getting trailers loaded, stuff figured out and plans. It’s an undertaking.
PSB: Is the payoff worth the effort?
Wanderscheid: The big thing is marketing, for us, the presence of being here, getting your name out there and attracting new customers. Yesterday they sold some sleds, and 90 percent of the customers were already in our system, so people have bought here before or they’re customers that have been to the store. It’s good to see that people, once you get them, keep coming back here.
PSB: What type of product do you bring?
Wanderscheid: We didn’t bring any ’14 stuff. People aren’t looking for that at Haydays. They want a deal. We had some 2010, ’11, ’12, ’13 — that price-leader stuff — that’s what people really go after.
PSB: What sled models do you feel are going to do well this winter?
Wanderscheid: El Tigrés. The new 6000 two-stroke from Cat. I’m anticipating that will be a good seller. We ordered heavy on them. M sleds are always good. All of our clients got trained for so many years here in Minnesota that there isn’t snow you can count on. They just buy M sleds and take their three or four trips out [West] every year, so we sell more mountain sleds than actual short tracks.
Before Haydays moved to its current location three years ago, it used to be located in Forest Lake/Columbus, literally in the backyard of Waldoch Sports. While it could act as an informal Haydays host in the past, now the Yamaha dealership is, in the lighthearted words of owner John Waldoch, “like the rest of all the gypsies.”
Waldoch comes to Haydays with the dealership’s cleanest non-current snowmobiles and all variants of gear and accessories. The dealership’s primary focus at the event is selling gear to riders that come from near and far.
After a late-starting previous winter and soft early summer season, Waldoch looked to Haydays to once again kick start the snowmobile selling season and turn the page on a challenging year.
PSB: How many employees do you need to staff your booth?
Waldoch: Once it’s set up, you only really need about four or five to do it. The booth is only 50 by 50.
PSB: How do you focus your marketing efforts throughout the event?
Waldoch: It’s making sure our name is on all the receipts they get, and cards and talking to different people. Haydays is also a deal finder, and people don’t care who you are. You just deal with that as best you can, service them and hope they buy as much as you’ve got to sell.
PSB: As some shows across the country gain or fall in importance, how do you feel about Haydays?
Waldoch: Haydays is one of those that you’ve got to … it’s worth being at. Are we really going to make a bunch of money? No, but we have to be there. We can’t all of a sudden, after 30 years, not be there.
PSB: How do you decide what to bring every year?
Waldoch: As big as our booth is, you can’t bring everything, so you’ve got to monitor what you’re bringing. Now I’m debating if we should have more new stuff and a smaller booth, or a bigger clothing booth and less used stuff.
Located more than 300 miles east near Green Bay, Wis., Ken’s Sports is a multi-brand powersports dealership selling everything from ATVs and UTVs to motorcycles and boats. Ken’s also specializes in selling non-current gear purchased from the OEMs.
While it’s a long drive and a major undertaking, Ken’s has held down a booth at Haydays for approximately the last 10 years as a highly effective means to sell out non-current gear, according to principal Scott Vander Loop.
After bringing a slew of used snowmobiles to sell at last year’s event, Ken’s decided to leave the sleds back in Wisconsin and, instead, focus solely on selling gear.
PSB: How was your Haydays weekend?
Scott Vander Loop: It was as good as previous years, maybe a little better, because if you factor in that warm weather on Saturday, which is usually the best day by far, you would’ve thought it would’ve been down a little bit, but our Saturday was phenomenal. If it were cold, it would’ve been that much better.
PSB: What keeps you coming back from such a distance?
Vander Loop: It’s a good place for us to get rid of stuff. We buy a lot of non-current clothing … and we have to discount it when it gets to be a year or two years old. Haydays is a good place to unload the stuff that’s maybe three, four, five years old and get your money out of it.
PSB: How do you measure your success after the fact?
Vander Loop: We usually just look at the bottom line, what kind of dollars we did there. The problem with going to Haydays, and when we went to the Princeton grass drags a couple weeks before that … you’re out in the middle of that field and sometimes it’s windy and dusty — the stuff you have left when you’re done there isn’t worth anything because it’s filthy.