At auction, dealers prepping for strong spring
NPA sees earlier response to inventory build
The sales and marketing staff at National Powersport Auctions’ mammoth headquarters facility in Poway, Calif., does its job from behind the scenes. Far away from the endless rows of powersports vehicles on the auction floor, and the excitement that an auction brings, they work the phones with efficiency, ensuring that dealers nationwide are informed and educated about NPA’s offerings.
Whether dealers need to liquidate inventory or build up their showfloor stock to prepare for spring sales, the nation’s only auction limited to participation by powersports dealers is ramping up for what appears to be a strong spring.
Meanwhile, members of NPA’s national sales staff are busy on the frontlines, building relationships with dealership personnel at site visits. In fact, it’s not uncommon for sales staffers to pass through the doors of multiple hundreds of dealerships in a given year. It’s all part of an educational process aimed at informing dealers about the prospects for using NPA as part of their inventory plans.
“I’m of the belief that people don’t like to get sold,” NPA chief operating officer Jim Woodruff told Powersports Business during a recent visit to the company’s San Diego-area headquarters. “I don’t like to get sold. If someone calls me on the phone and to try to sell me something, I’m the first guy to say ‘Thanks, I’m in a meeting’ or ‘The kid’s crying’ or whatever,” Woodruff said. “We do take the educational approach. We have something that people need, and the opportunity to teach them how to use it better, that it exists and is available, is part of that.”
A full-service approach to sales and marketing — headed by executive vice president John Roshala, national sales director Mike Murray and media manager Ryan Keefe — has been particularly effective for the company.
“They’re all working in sync with each other, where they’re each taking a piece of the interaction with the dealer. It’s working really well. It’s educational and it’s about relationship development,” Woodruff said. “The dealers have a number of people who can help them. And if we can’t help them, that’s OK. But I think the proof is in the pudding when it comes to our auctions.”
Strong start to year
Dealers turning to NPA in the winter months have been doing so in impressive numbers.
“2014 is really getting off to a good start,” Woodruff said. “From the wholesale view, we can see the way dealers are thinking and planning ahead. The appetite for inventory so far has been tremendous. Prices have been strong — not ridiculous, but stronger than this time last year. And it’s somewhat independent of product mix.”
A cold and snowy winter — more than half of the country was covered in snow in late February — does not appear to have lessened dealers’ appetites for turning to auction to build their inventory.
“Last year we had the wet and cold spring, and this year’s been interesting because it’s been cold and snowy for the most part, but the optimism dealers have going into this spring is stronger than last year. I think they’re all betting we’re not going to have back-to-back bad springs, and this spring is going to lighten up a little bit.”
Dealers have been equally active on the liquidation side, Woodruff said.
“Our San Diego sale (in early February) had the best conversion rate [the ratio of units sold to units offered] that we’ve seen in two years. It’s partly a function of the appetite for the product, but it’s also a function of the dealers willing to sell to get what they need for their own product mix,” Woodruff said.
NPA’s online eSale platform continues to perform “extremely well.” The platform, also used by NPA’s Harley-Davidson Dealer Exchange and other company properties, has brought strong conversion rates, and pricing that is equal to that of a live sale.
Thanks to the work of the aforementioned sales and marketing staff, NPA experienced record levels of online participation, including simulcast of live sales, from dealers in 2013.
“The sales and marketing capabilities that NPA has is a key part of our business, and no one knows about it. No one sees it,” Woodruff said. “You’re on the aution floor, and you see an awesome selection of vehicles and they’re clean and ready to go. The machine runs like a clock. But how do all the vehicles get there, and how do all the people get there? That’s where the sales and marketing organization comes in.”
With more efficient and reliable simulcast technology, and trusted condition reports, dealers are becoming more comfortable building their inventory via NPA’s online offerings.
“About 70 percent of all product that goes through our doors sell to a dealer over the Internet,” Woodruff said.