FAIRFIELD, CT (BRAIN)—If industry executives got out of the office and on the road, they’d quickly learn that most dealers are upbeat about prospects for a good year despite the recession roiling the economy, said Chris Fortune, president of Saris.
Fortune, who will visit dealers today in Manhattan, has been traveling along the East Coast this week meeting with dealers and their staff, and listening to what they have to say about business. “It’s very refreshing to see and hear first hand what these dealers foresee for 2009,” he said.
“They are starting to see sales and all the dealers we’ve visited so far said sales are on pace and in some cases even stronger than last year at this time,” said Fortune, who has been traveling throughout Connecticut and Long Island.
In a cell phone interview, Fortune said he visited a new Trek concept store owned by Lisa Joaquim in Fairfield, Connecticut, which opened last weekend. “It’s off to a brisk start,” he said. “She’s started off very strong and she’s done an amazing job on the interior and the merchandising.”
But more importantly, said Fortune, she is aggressively “hunting” customers. One program her store sponsors is rides for mothers with small children. They pull the kids along in a trailer. “It engages the mom who’s looking for some exercise,” he said.
“I was at Chris Zane’s store and he’s offering yoga classes. He’s reaching out to new customers. These retailers have taken on a hunting mentality—they are out hunting for customers. That’s what you’ve got to do today,” Fortune said.
If dealers have a concern, he pointed out, it’s the potential for a shortfall in key product lines when the season opens this spring. “There could be a lack of product, but they are already training their staff to sell what’s on hand. But I think companies that have inventory in season will benefit from making that commitment,” Fortune said.
“There are a lot of smart dealers out there who are looking beyond their store walls. But with all that’s going on in the news, it clouds our ability to clearly see what’s happening at the shop level. I can tell you that the good shops are attacking it, and they are doing well,” he added.