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Four Ways to Update Your Store, and How to Get Started

EVERYONE has a starting point.

Powersports retailing is not like retailing in other industries. Because it is made up primarily of independent Dealers, with a variety of brands representing many kinds of enthusiasts, the retail environments are not the same.

The challenge is to find continued relevance.

Your building was most likely not a ground-up, designed for your business. We work with many Dealers on renovations of buildings that used to be car dealerships, big box retailers, even fire stations. The fundamentals are usually in place  ̶  a sign, a parking lot, an outside display, a showroom with lighting, units on some kind of floor, and accessories and clothing on a variety of wall and freestanding fixtures.

Where to start?

Examine your signage. So many Dealers have major investments in signage, and it pays off for them as 24-hour advertisements. If you have discolored, broken, hand-painted or missing lights, you must fix it or remove it immediately. 

Need motivation? Think “10 percent off” for every sad feeling the consumer has while looking at it.

A critical eye. Take down everything outdated   ̶   posters, banners, flyers, magazines, outdated videos and empty boxes  ̶  in every area, including your showroom, offices, parts department and service. There are two important reasons for doing this: First, by leaving up old items, you convey to your customers that you are not a source of new information and current thinking; and second, you may find you have more space available than you thought. 

PWittman_SherwinWill6496.JPG?ver=2017-12-15-194250-110Patching and painting. If you are not planning a big project, patching and painting is one of the least expensive fixes to make. Dinged, dingy walls don’t appear “prosperous.” Outdated colors or painting techniques appear out of touch and off-trend  - geared toward discounting.  Exterior, trim, sign poles, showroom walls, ceilings, service departments, bathrooms - all of it is fair game.

What colors should you use? That’s a question we frequently field. Color conveys feeling (important, yes, why you became a Dealer, probably not). We aim to provide color recommendations that are an extension of your dealership’s personality.

PWittman_Pantone18-3838.JPG?ver=2017-12-15-194248-667Color selection is complex. The Pantone Color Institute named "Ultra Violet" as the Color of the Year for 2018.  Why? Well, they say "Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future," Pantone said. 

But then, Sherwin Williams named its color of the year: Oceanside 6496. It's “a collision of rich blue with jewel-toned green, a color that is both accessible and elusive," the company said. "A complex, deep color that offers a sense of the familiar with a hint of the unknown, Oceanside bridges together a harmonious balance of blues and greens that can be found in what's old and new.”

OK, perhaps that’s too many words to convey color for our gearhead minds, but you get the gist. Colors evoke a feeling or two: Honda red, Kawasaki green, Harley orange. What’s your own color “brand” going to be?

Practical, or fantastical? Fantastical is great, but you also have to focus on workability. Is your customer flow working for you and maximizing the space? Clear pathways and department signage can be relatively inexpensive ways to direct traffic. In many cases, your parts counter is also your cash wrap or transaction area.

Clearing the clutter is cheap; expanding the physical space because you have outgrown it is more expensive – but it may be worthwhile, because it is “the office” for many of your people.  I was in a national retailer recently, and noticed that it is forcing the salespeople in one of their larger departments to leave their areas to ring up sales at the end of an aisle with their backs to the customer. The salespeople despise it as it’s too far to make eye contact with the next customer and the area is too cramped to treat the current customer well during the transaction. It feels outdated and not thoughtful.  

Cramped quarters behind the counter also can lead to territory battles and job dissatisfaction. Clear the clutter first. Next, measure. We recommend 5 feet of well-organized space per person for effectiveness.

ATTENTION! All Dealers, but particularly those non-franchised shops: What are your particular challenges when it comes to retail design? For those of you who have already responded to our survey with Dealernews, thank you! But we’d love to have more respondents – and we look forward to sharing the results. CLICK HERE to take the survey.

What do you want us to talk about? Send us your thoughts at pwittman@millerwittman.com or via editors@dealernews.com

PaigeWittman.jpg?ver=2017-12-15-194818-000Paige Wittman is a partner in the Miller Wittman Retail Design Group. She has 25 years of sales, marketing, design, retail and channel development experience. She has dedicated her career to developing winning sales teams, powerful distribution channels, and retail programs for leading brands. She can be reached at pwittman@millerwittman.com or visit the company's website at http://www.millerwittman.com/

Read more at DealerNews

Independent dealers, let us hear from you

When we were at AIMExpo last month in Columbus, Dealernews' Stan Simpson got my partner, Scott Miller, and me thinking about the independent retailer brand. In our showroom designs, we typically make room for a retailer's brand among the OEM brands it represents; but for independents, the brand you represent...is you. Your styles and focus vary, but the principles of retail remain constant. We are going to focus some future retail advice for you.

We want to hear about your issues and needs, so please complete our survey HERE

Are you losing your own brand?

Your own business identity is as, if not more, important than the powersports brands you carry.

By Paige Wittman

YOU REPRESENT some of the most well-known brands in powersports and, indeed, general retail. But how do you define and find space for your own retail brand? Today, we see more brands than ever in Dealer locations, and more demands from brands that don’t take your entire store into consideration. Balancing all of these brands is a Herculean task.

Mies Outland personifies “up north” Minnesota cabin culture. (Image: Miller Wittman)

‘Who am I?’ Your own identity is as important, if not more, than the brands you carry. As the physical and local embodiment of these products, you are the seller, adviser and servicer. Each interaction is an opportunity to convey your point of view and what you stand for as a business and in the community. Each interaction is an opportunity to define your relationship with the customers.

Some background: While I was writing this column, I took a break and checked the mail. There was direct mail piece promoting a “customer appreciation sale” from a local appliance retailer that carries 30 national brands in its nine locations. The mailer was addressed to “Paige Wittman Or Current Resident.” I have purchased eight appliances and countertops from this retailer in recent history, yet I am anonymous to them as a customer.

Full Throttle Motorsports in Michigan pays homage to its family history, owning and operating a gas station, with this display.

The retailer’s mailer screamed “Maximize co-op!” with each of their brands and, as a result, ineffectively communicated the local retailer’s own brand. The mailer contained a robust demonstration schedule, but it didn’t address what a customer might gain by joining them. And based on my eight past purchases, which demo should I go to?

So I went to their website: There wasn’t one photo of a demo or even one customer interacting with staff. This retailer missed a huge opportunity to customize the experience to capitalize on its local brand and define its specific reason for being.

After I looked at the mailer, I was vacillating between devising offers that could appeal to me from them, wondering why I have had unrequited loyalty to them, and wondering why I expect more from them. Because they are a local business, my expectation of interaction increases. If this was Home Depot or Best Buy, would it evoke this emotion? Probably not.

There are a lot of similarities between this retailer and your business if you look past the product. Are you hiding your own brand behind those other brands you represent?

Take a look around: Is your space cavernous or cramped, haphazard, handlebar-to-handlebar with no more personality than a cardboard box? Or is it carefully crafted and cultivated to convey YOUR message to consumers? You are more than the sum of your inventory. Each decision you make tells your story… or it doesn’t.

Defined, aligned and integrated

Anyone who has been to one of the Van Wall stores in Iowa or Mies Outland in Minnesota knows that these marquee powersports Dealers mean business. The stores are destinations that pay off in selection and shopping environment. Both of these businesses do a great job delineating their agriculture businesses from their powersports/motorcycle businesses, and are great examples of creating retail environments that are respectful of the markets they serve.

I recently visited Shannon Tracy of UVC Powersports in Alvin, TX, and I was impressed by her ability to create and clearly communicate the UVC brand in the midst of the big brands represented at this dealership. Vertical integration is a term commonly used as a company works to control many steps in its process to increase power in its marketplace, and that’s what UVC Powersports does.

UVC’s focus on first responders and United States military customers is clear and genuine, and connected to Shannon’s own military service. There are custom videos airing in her showroom showcasing Texas-based celebrity customers like Mickey Gilley and Stone-Cold Steve Austin. The detail involved in providing parking lot signs for the individual employees is unreal; it shouts, “We care about the employees” and smartly suggests permanence to the customers.

Shannon’s big personality and thoughtful integration strategy shine through every marketing element. All of it is designed to say, “There is a lot going on, and I want to see more.”

Find your brand again. Ask yourself these questions:

Why do customers choose to come to my location(s) and do business with me? Are those reasons aligned with the brand I have defined for my business? Are those reasons clearly defined and carried out throughout my store, and my marketing, social media and sales processes?

Take a look at your signage. Is YOUR name and logo on the building and other exterior signage?

Do you have your branding or brand messaging at your parts counter?

Do you have brand messaging at your service counter? Perhaps customer satisfaction scores or other substantiated claims that you can make to reinforce your brand?

Do you have a portion of your website dedicated to your brand and company? These areas make your business unique and interactive.

Local brands are not just for bearded hipsters selecting artisanal meats and limited run coffees. Local brands are YOU. The room for YOU is literal and figurative, virtual and in-person, defined and refined.

INDEPENDENT DEALERS – LET US HEAR FROM YOU When we were at AIMExpo last month in Columbus, Dealernews’ Stan Simpson got my partner, Scott Miller, and me thinking about the independent retailer brand. In our showroom designs, we typically make room for a retailer’s brand among the OEM brands it represents; but for independents, the brand you represent…is you. Your styles and focus vary, but the principles of retail remain constant. We are going to focus some future retail advice for you.

We want to hear about your issues and needs, so please complete our survey HERE

Read more at DealerNews

Dealernews launches retail design editorial series with Paige Wittman

Dealer News Logo
Mary Green, Dealernews


Wittman and business partner Scott Miller to meet with Dealers at Dealernews booth during AIMExpo

SUNBURY, OH – Dealernews, along with Paige Wittman, principal of the Miller Wittman Design Group, have launched a new editorial series on Dealernews.com to explain ways store design and merchandising can help Dealers attract new buyers.

Wittman’s first column, “Why other retailers envy powersports Dealers,” stresses the relevance of the Dealer in today’s retail environment. “The most ‘Instagrammable’ or post-them-on-Facebook moments in people’s lives are served up by you and your team. Every other kind of retailer can only imagine this kind of interaction with products far tamer and less interactive,” she says.

To celebrate the launch of the editorial series, Wittman and her business partner, Scott Miller, will provide informal one-on-one consultations with Dealers at AIMExpo. These free “10-minute conversations” will be held at the Dealernews booth (2622) at the following times:

  • Thursday, Sept. 21: 10:30 a.m. to noon, and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 22: 10:30 a.m. to noon

“Being at the show and seeing all of the Dealers with Dealernews is really going to be exciting for us,” Wittman said. “We knew there would be great opportunities for us to find ways to bring value to powersports Dealers together. Plus, we believe talking with the Dealers at AIMExpo will provide us with topics to cover in the coming months.”

Attendees are encouraged to drop by the Dealernews booth to talk informally with Wittman and Miller about their specific design or merchandising challenges. Wittman and Miller will meet with attendees on a first come, first-served basis; however, Dealernews also will provide a signup sheet at the booth (2622) for Dealers who want to reserve a specific timeslot on Thursday or Friday.

“We believe powersports Dealers are extremely relevant in today’s market,” Wittman said. “They are the ‘experience-makers’ — they already have the local-market magic that every big-box retailer is now seeking. They just need to know how to capitalize on that magic by sharing the experience.”

“Every great design or merchandising idea starts with a conversation,” said Miller. “It is tremendous that we can help Dealers start engaging new audiences by talking with them at the Dealernews booth at AIMExpo.”

AIMExpo will be held Sept. 21-24, 2017, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Trade (Dealer) days are Thursday and Friday. To register for AIMExpo, visit www.aimexpousa.com

Click here to read more on Dealernews

Equity In, Equity Out

Paige Wittman, Owner Miller Wittman Retail Design

I was talking to a business friend of mine and we were discussing customer relationships and hunting for some synergy between our respective products. We both have been salespeople, sales leaders, and now both own companies. He didn’t know a lot about working with independent dealer networks and I said in many ways it is similar to other kinds of customers, except, in every case, they own their own business. You must prove value every time you approach them as it is their livelihood and that of their employees on the line.

As a person who has spent my entire career working with independent dealers; first with Malone Advertising, then The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, followed by Polaris Industries & Andersen Corporation, I can tell you that it is a specialty and it has led to the philosophy that I follow.

You are either putting equity into a relationship or taking it out with every interaction.

 Independent dealers are generational. You will know the grandfather, the daughter, and the person you encounter at a tiny desk or sweeping the yard could be the next owner. You are playing a very long game with them. If you are a corporate person they will, unless something like fraud or bankruptcy should occur, outlast you. That is a hard, unpopular truth when you are climbing the corporate ladder, but will serve you well.

I have been in thousands of hours of dealer meetings and the thing I noticed early on in my career was that the successful sales representatives always take the corporate programs to their “advisor” dealer first to take the story out for a test drive and confirm what the customer reaction would be.

Where am I going to be in the land of equity when I take this to all my dealers?

If a program filled a dealer need (sell more, be more efficient, cost less, etc.), the momentum was swift and sell-in was successful. If the word on the street was that a program was useless or too expensive, it would die a quick death. Every rep knows that if they use their equity to sell a bad program, that dealer relationship has lost value and the next time they approach, it will be that much harder.

There are great dealers, good dealers and not so good dealers in every network, but each of them are entrepreneurs. I always tried to imagine that I was writing the checks when I developed programs for dealers. Would this be something I would buy? Would I make this investment? Would this be enough of an incentive to change behavior?

Hit reset

I participated in an introductory meeting where it was clear that this very successful dealer did not like the relationship with the company I worked for. They sold millions of dollars of our product a year and could barely speak to us civilly. I asked the dealer to give us a chance to listen and come up with better solutions. We reset the relationship and embarked on collective winning. We were negative equity that day and built it up to overflowing. In case you are wondering, that also means sales were way up with that dealer and we were finding more ways to proactively grow together.

The equity I earned with customers, I now cash in asking for their advice.

I am a partner in a business now and many of the relationships I had with customers, I now rely on for business counsel. My friend, Rob Holden, owns Florence Building Materials, a multiple location business on Long Island, NY and as soon as I said that I was becoming a partner in a company, he asked me many pointed, but very helpful questions and gave me very clear advice. (Thanks, Rob!) He started out as my customer, became an advisor dealer to me, then became my friend and now we talk about how to run a business. If I hadn’t been able to bring value to him in our first relationship, we wouldn't have one now.

Today we aspire to bring value to every customer we touch.

After thousands of dealer locations designed and many product launches, we confirm our value through surveys & interviews, but our true measurement is all of the customers who come back to us for each of their retail store projects. For us, that is the ultimate equity-in test.