Harrington recalls, “One of my reps once asked me, ‘Russ, what are you going to do if we’re hit with a major drought? You have this huge, state-of-the-art building you won’t be able to pay for.’ That really hit home for me.”
Six months after moving into the new facility, Harrington began looking for a product that would create off-season revenue, while also generating after-sale parts and service business. The dealership’s lawn and garden business was still growing by leaps and bounds, so Harrington didn’t want to take on a product that would require too much risk or demand too much of his managerial attention. He found exactly what he was looking for in Yamaha Motorsports.
“The Yamaha dealer in Tupelo had just closed after many years in business,” Harrington tells. “So there was already a large customer base for parts and service.” Additionally, from a marketing standpoint, the widely recognized Yamaha name would relieve a lot of pressure off Harrington. “Yamaha is a big name in motorsports,” Harrington points out. “They have about 25% market share.”
The question, then, wasn’t whether or not 4 Seasons Equipment wanted the Yamaha line. The question was whether or not Yamaha wanted 4 Seasons Equipment as a dealer.
“I started calling the local Yamaha rep,” Harrington says. “At first he didn’t even want to come talk to us because he didn’t want his product in a lawn mower shop. When he finally did visit and saw our operation, he changed his mind.”
Sealing the deal with Yamaha took much more than a smile and a handshake. “There was a lot of paperwork,” Harrington says. “They wanted all kinds of demographic information on our market, statistics on traffic, etc. And they wanted a pretty strong commitment from us.”
Harrington and Jaggers were willing to make that commitment. Roughly 40% of the dealership’s show floor was immediately reserved for Yamaha product. Harrington says that’s worked out well because 4 Seasons Equipment had more than enough room in its massive 7,000-square-foot showroom.
Harrington hired one full-time person to manage the Yamaha line, which includes ordering wholegoods and parts, merchandising and working the sales floor. Jaggers also hired a full-time technician to work on nothing but Yamaha. “Motorsports is totally different than outdoor power,” Jaggers points out. “We wanted an experienced technician. Fortunately, it was easy to find one—much easier than finding an outdoor power tech. We ran one ad in the local paper and had 15 people call.”
4 Seasons Equipment’s Yamaha sales have been building about 25% every year. “Yamaha sales, parts and service now make up 35% of our total revenue,” Harrington says. “It’s been a real blessing this year with the drought—just like my rep warned me about a few years ago.”
Opened A Second, Sales-only Store
In 2003 when Harrington and Jaggers decided to build their new store, they chose the budding south end of town, which is also the more “residential” part of Tupelo. In the past few years, though, the north end of town has also seen substantial growth.
“There are a lot of new, more affordable-type neighborhoods to the north of Tupelo; mostly first-time home builders,” Harrington explains.
“There’s also a new shopping mall up there, along with a Home Depot, Lowe’s and Tractor Supply store. That’s about 12 miles from our store. It doesn’t seem like much of a distance, but a lot of these new residents at the north end of town weren’t coming to us. They weren’t getting any further than those three box stores.”
Harrington and Jaggers had to figure out a way to tap into this growing market. There was a 5,000-square-foot, free-standing building on the north end of town, right on a four-lane highway. Aside from a bit of interior painting, very little would need to be done to transform that building into 4 Seasons Equipment’s second store.
Harrington and Jaggers began renting the building this year, creating a sales-only satellite location for 4 Seasons Equipment. The store does maintain a minimal amount of parts inventory—the 15% of inventory that generates 80% of parts sales, such as filters, blades and belts. When a customer needs service, he can bring the machine back to the store, but the machine will then be hauled down to the main facility for repair.