The lack of snow affects motorcycle sales in Nashua
On a recent weekday afternoon while browsing inside RJ’s Motorsport, a Nashua motorcycle dealership on Amherst Street, Jim Colburn found love – a shiny bike the 19-year-old Merrimack resident held tenderly while regarding its charms.
Colburn, a student who works in retail sales and as an on-call snowplow operator, had no intention of making a commitment, despite his sincere attentions.
Instead, he assumed a practical, weather-driven attitude: No snow so far this winter has meant no plowing at $15 to $20 an hour; and no plowing means no extra cash to buy a motorcycle.
“We have nothing but kickers now. They’re looking, not buying,” said Matt Raymond, who works in parts and sales at RJ’s, a consignment dealership.
It’s the same story across Greater Nashua, with just one exception, Nashua Harley-Davidson on Route 101A in Merrimack. At the Harley dealership, Jason Tardif, head of sales, service and parts, said sales have been a little higher than average, especially in December.
Tardif said the warm winter weather hasn’t discouraged his customers, typically between 27 and 60 and so passionate about the brand they often join owners clubs.
But sales managers at Hudson Cycle Center, Best Cycles and RJ’s, where Colburn was window-shopping, had a different experience. While the lack of snow has extended the riding season, stretching it from between four and six months to as many as 10, the clear roads and balmy temperatures have had a negative impact on sales, they said.
“We’re all thinking this is great,” said Brian Cote, sales manager at Best Cycle Center at Best Ford, a Suzuki and Honda dealer at 579 Amherst St. in Nashua. “No snow this winter makes us all a little bit happier, but the people we want to come in and buy these toys don’t have the cash.”Cote said his biggest customer base is made up of adults between 25 and 50, working people who depend on overtime pay from plowing and salting roads to raise the funds necessary to buy motorcycles.
“We can make up the season if we have a strong spring,” Cote said, adding that spring sales depend on his customers’ winter incomes. “The lack of snow is going to hurt.”
Jennifer Wheeler, sales manager at Hudson Cycle Center at 2 Flagstone Drive, saw plenty of customers on a recent Saturday that was so mild, some area residents were outside in shorts and sandals. The increased traffic, however, while friendly and welcome, did not affect sales, Wheeler said.
“A lot of our customers are in the construction business, and construction is down,” Wheeler said. “Also, a lot of those guys who plow, and use that money to buy toys, are not plowing, not making their money.”
Wheeler, who sells Yamahas and Kawasakis, said the upcoming expos, including one scheduled in Salem on Jan. 27-28 at Rockingham Park, are incentives for shoppers. She also said motorcycle dealers often sell snowmobiles in the winter, another casualty this year of the lack of snow.
“At our showroom, we usually take all the bikes off the floor,” Wheeler said. “Now, it’s half bikes and half snowmobiles.”
Roger Pageot, owner and operator of RJ’s Motorsport, 421 Amherst St., said he has seen plenty of browsers in recent weeks, but few, if any, serious shoppers.
“It’s the same story,” said the 30-year veteran of the motorcycle business. “I’d really like to buy the bike, but I’m not getting any overtime”, he said he hears over and over again.
Pageot said a winter without snow affects motorcycle sales for more than the current season.
Typically, a customer raises the cash during one season to buy a bike the next year, he said. A few consecutive mild seasons have a trickle-down effect.
“Usually, we sell 10 to 15 motorcycles for Christmas,” Pageot said. “This year, we didn’t see that. Mother Nature is not cooperating.”