Destination Dealership: Cycle City of Erie

Fun for sale

The Cycle City gang makes a serious business of selling fun to the masses. I recently sat down with Brian Russell, Cycle City’s fun facilitator and marketing manager, and he shared some of this evolving dealer’s secrets of success.

Owner Gary Pustelak started Cycle City as the first multi-line dealership in the region 26 years ago. The company still carries the three original lines — Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki — and sticks to its guiding principle. “Part of the premise behind the whole business was to create a truly fun destination to visit,” says Russell, who was first introduced to Cycle City more than 20 years ago as a customer. “From eight to 80, if you are physically capable of having fun, you’re a customer.”

The newest incarnation of the dealership let’s these purveyors of good times go overboard. The Cycle City management team put their out-of-date retail location on the market, and when an offer came in, the crew only had 31 days to transform an 18,000-square-foot cinder block warehouse into the impressive “temporary” shop they’re working in today. “The traffic pattern at the old store just wasn’t cutting it,” says Russell. “Now that we’ve moved into a more fluid location in the city for traffic and retail, we’ve had a constant stream of customers. Given the state of the industry we’re facing, we are very happy with the growth rate we are having.”

While the Cycle City team does have plans to build a 45,000-square-foot facility down the road on their current property, they’re still taking full advantage of their new and improved location.

Cycle City is working with the Pennsylvania State MSF to offer rider training, and it plans to build a practice course with classroom space.

In addition they are breaking ground on an ATV test track. Between these two controlled riding environments, Cycle City can offer its customers test rides, which is sure to give the dealership a leg up on the competition.

If customers need a little more time with a unit, Cycle City is also introducing a rentals program that will allow them to cash in on both local demand and out-of-town visitors.

Cycle City also strives to build a family-like atmosphere through on-site bike nights and a weekly ride-and-dine club.

With this focus on the customer, Cycle City is poised for even greater growth in the future. The store is targeting the women’s segment with a female-specific ad campaign and a ladies-only section of the store.

Russell also notes that he’s seen the demographics within the store shifting beyond just a narrowing of the gender gap. “The motorcycle industry is becoming almost a necessity in transportation now, and before it was just a recreational product,” he says. “We’re seeing a revitalization of the 500cc and under class, and we’re going through scooters like crazy; we can’t keep them on the floor.”

Another Shift Russell’s seen is in Cycle City’s used business. 32 percent of the units sold at Cycle City are used, but what’s really changed is the way they’re sourcing those used bikes. People aren’t trading as many bikes in, so they’ve turned to the NPA auctions to help build their used inventory.

Those used unit sales and the retention of older bikes are boosting both P&A sales and service. The one department that has hit on hard times is F&I, as lenders tighten their belts.

Russell sees keeping a positive outlook for the industry as an important challenge. “We don’t look at it as a recession, not a declining market,” he says. “If you think you’re in a recession, you are. You start pulling back and get protective. We think through every program, and we try to stay aggressive.”

One program that’s been very effective for Cycle City is its partnerships with other local businesses to make media

buys it couldn’t afford on its own. When it comes down to it, Cycle City is all about creating memorable experiences, and as they continue to grow, they’re sure to expand on their philosophy of fun. “People still want to ride, people still want to buy the units and have fun. You’ve gotta let them know it’s out there,” concludes Russell.

What are you doing to let people know you’re still running strong? Tell us at [email protected].

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