Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Parts Unlimited & Drag Specialties 2017 NVP Product Expo
In the fourth trade event with V-twin industry ‘action’ in the space of four weeks in January and February this year, Drag Specialties and Parts Unlimited pulled off a coup with a “comeback” for industry involvement at Indianapolis. This year saw them filling an exhibition hall underneath the Indianapolis Colt’s state-of-the-art Lucas Oil Stadium, but the word is that an even bigger 2018 event will see LeMans booking out the main hall at the remodelled downtown Indianapolis Convention Center ... the crime scene of many a powersports industry dealer weekend of years past!
A hectic schedule of trade events concluded in February with Drag Specialties and Parts Unlimited “bringing back Indy” in the form of their 2017 NVP Product Expo housed in exhibition space beneath the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium on February 18 and 19.
Preceded by two days of vendor presentations to the group’s sales force and visiting dealers, the event isn’t a replacement for their well-known NVP Product Expo at Madison, Wisconsin, in August. That will still go ahead later this year (August 26 & 27), but it was an opportunity for the company to “ring the changes” after three or four years of hosting two somewhat later events at King Of Prussia in Pennsylvania and at Atlanta, Georgia.
“It’s always good to change things up once in a while,” said Jim Matchette, National Sales Manager for Drag Specialties, when I spoke with him at ‘Indy’ back in February.
“The events at King of Prussia and Atlanta have been really good for us, but we are a national business, so it makes sense to embrace different areas whenever we can. We may well be back in those areas at some stage – in fact the company will still be involved at Atlanta later this month when Parts Unlimited stages its Showcase at the Supercross.
“However, this year sees Drag Specialties stepping up to the plate to create our own tour of events. The Supercross events work really well for Parts Unlimited, but we wanted to do something different this year for Drag Specialties, so we have created a truck tour where the emphasis is on dealer training.
Backed by several of Drag Specialties’ vendors, the series starts at Tampa, Florida, at the end of March, and then visits all four corners of the United States with 24 events already planned, with the possibility of adding more.
“It’s all about connecting effectively with our dealers. Our sales teams will get the opportunity to work closely with their dealers, at an event in their area, and our vendors get the opportunity to extend the kind of training they can give dealers at our NVPs on a more local level - with dealers who may never get the opportunity to otherwise meet with them.”
As reported in AMD Magazine two months ago, the series, as presently planned, finishes up in Texas (Dallas, then Houston) in October.
The vendors backing the Drag Specialties tour include the likes of S&S Cycle, Bassani Xhaust, Custom Dynamics, Hogtunes, Khrome Werks, Saddlemen, Klock Werks, LA Choppers, Magna Flow, J.W.Speaker, Memphis Shades, Revolution Performance and four of the tire companies – Dunlop, Pirelli, Michelin and Metzeler.
This tour is only one strand of this year’s event activities for Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties though. LeMans’ VP Sales Jeff Derge told me that, altogether, the company is involved in more than 70 events this year.
That includes ‘Indy’ and Madison, the V-Twin Expo at Cincinnati, the Drag Specialties Dealer Training Tour dates, the Parts Unlimited ‘Showcase’ series hosted at Supercross and Arena Cross events, other race involvements and sponsorships (“We Support The Sport”) and another new tour program created this year for the firm’s helmet and apparel programs.
“We have created three six-week tours, one each for the Western side of the country, one East Coast and a central swing, with six weeks each expressly for our helmet and apparel brands,” Jeff explained.
“The format is two events a week and 36 shows altogether at which dealers see and engage with our complete apparel and helmet ranges, showcasing Thor, ICON, Alpinestars, Slippery When Wet, Artiva and others. Through conventional marketing channels you can give dealers new product updates, and the reps and existing shows can let them see one or two samples, but this way our dealers see all the designs and colorways, experience the look and feel of our apparel lines first hand, and form a much better perspective about how they can be merchandised in their showrooms and what can work for them in their local markets. It is all about helping our dealers make good buying decisions.
“It is a huge investment, but we think it is the right investment - just as the Drag Specialties Dealer Training Tour is. We have always invested in the brick and mortar dealers. Fred Fox has a phenomenal track record of backing the store network in our market, and this is another new way of demonstrating our support for the brick and mortar shops.
“Other distributors may have different approaches, but we believe in the store owners and still think their investments in their showrooms represents the biggest shop window the markets has. The vast majority of sales are still through the shops. In the scheme of things, e-commerce is still a relatively small percentage. Ours is a technical and hands-on, experiential industry. There’ll always be a role for mail order, of one kind or another, but I don’t think it will ever take over – not in the motorcycle industry.
“The revenue the online stores generate is still money that is going into the industry. But what we also have to do is to help our dealers compete. Above all to help them exploit the unique advantages that a real shop with real enthusiasts brings to the consumer’s enjoyment of their motorcycle ownership and riding experience. That is where our focus is – to help everyone in the industry continue to benefit from that.”
Talking with Drag Specialties and industry veteran Tom Motzko about “Indy being back” and the long-term impact that this could have, he agreed that the potential is huge. “The reaction has been excellent and we would have been in the Convention Center this year, excepting for an event clash. But we are definitely in the expo center for 2018 and beyond, and yes, I agree – I think this is set to become a major feature of the annual industry calendar.
“As a city, I think Indianapolis was always more popular with vendors and dealers than anyone realizes. But it and Dealer Expo had its issues. These are different times now though. The city has made itself easier to do business with, the expo center is now way better than it was, and there is a very positive and business friendly attitude.
“We are excited about embracing Indianapolis for our own event and yes, of course, the industry legacy is going to help. Next year the show floor will be at least 30 percent larger than this year has been, and we feel good about the plans we have.”
Talking with Tom about the market, he agreed that the end of 2016 was “challenging – as it was for everyone. But we started 2017 really well and have had our best first quarter in a long time.”
Jeff Derge went on to say that “what is interesting is that there’s been no magic tricks, just good old fashioned hard work. There is business out there for the shops, they just need help creating the excitement the market needs to get everyone enthused.”
Jim Matchette made a prescient remark, bearing in mind that we were talking in mid-February. “I’m picking up a great deal of excitement about the prospects for the Flat Track racing season ahead. It seems to me that the AMA have done a good job in terms of trying to breathe new life into it, and the competition that we may be about to see between Harley and Indian could turn out to be good for the industry.”
Good call Jim – now, about the series outcome, who’s your money on?