Nothing turns my stomach more than a retail business person who whines the old saw ‘you can’t fight Santa Claus.’ For the past 30 years I’ve worked with great dealers that turned their respective marketplaces upside down by doubling, tripling and even quadrupling their December sales with nothing more than the right attitude and a good plan.
For starters, December is a great month to buy a vehicle for a million reasons. Cold weather has set in. Cars won’t start. They need tires and repairs. Your customers need better gas mileage. Front wheel drive. All-wheel drive. A million, bezillion reasons limited only by lack of imagination. Of course this December has added advantages. As you read this article, the election will be over. Whether your candidate choice won or lost, there will be some resolve on what life will be. Political commercials will be over for a while (thank God!). Life will get somewhat back to normal. I predict that whichever party takes the reigns, there will be a slight bump in confidence. All the while, interest rates are rock bottom low, plenty of entry level vehicles have attractive lease/financing options, used cars are holding their value which means more equity…better trade-up deal. I’m getting excited just thinking about it.
So, as you read this, what is your plan? Did you cut back on inventory? Cut advertising? Or are you steamed up and ready to run for the gold? I remember when the late Bob Tasca Sr. geared up for one of the biggest winter campaigns in his history. He bought tons of vehicles, doubled his advertising, put a buffet lunch out in the showroom every single day and sold cars like there was no tomorrow. He sold over 600 Lincolns and Mercurys in December! More than his closest competitor in the sunny state of Texas. It was chaos. And it was fun. Delivering 15 to 20 vehicles a day in December in Rhode Island! Meanwhile, just two hours north a dealer in Maine set an all-time New England sales record for the last 10 days of December… ‘just givin’ them cars away!’
Over the years December has developed into the potential of being one of the best months of the year. Lots of folks actually finish their Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Tons of baby boomers don’t even do a lot of shopping in December. Lots of young folks are home from school as early as the middle of December.
Here is an idea for your consideration. Order a bunch of ‘appreciation gifts’ right now. Thirty extra cases of windshield washer fluid, ice scrapers, car blankets, etc. Mail a Christmas card to your customer base (or e-blast) the day before Thanskgiving. Invite them in to enjoy a cup of coffee, a cold sola and pick up a free gift of their choice with absolutely no obligation. Consider a self-liquidating service promotion such as new windshield wiper inserts installed while you wait for just $8.95 (or whatever the comparable cost of the inserts is at Wal-Mart). A dealer friend of mine ran a wiper insert promotion, installed over 300 sets and the average RO came out to $80 because most people decided to do a few other things while at the dealership.
How about a tire promotion? Fill the first 10 days of your December with inexpensive reasons for folks to stop by, and to justify your sales folks getting on the phone to wish happy holidays and make a personal invite to the dealership as well to pick up a free gift and say hello.
Last year an enterprising Lexus dealer held a sales contest for off site demos. Salespeople offered to bring various models to businesses during the day for a look-see. The dealership sold a record number of vehicles, many delivered Christmas week with giant bows on them.
Think about this. There are a whole bunch of customers out there right now who want a car, need a car, but are holding back til just the right time. They need a nudge, a push, maybe even a shove, but they are most likely to respond to the salesperson who seems like he/she wants to earn their business the most.
Make sure you have your biggest sale of the year burned in for the last 10 days of December, through January 2. You can easily sell as many vehicles in the week between Christmas and New Years as you can the first 20 days of December… if you’ve a mind to do it.
Call it a Christmas sale, a year end Sale, a tax man sale, a fresh start sale, call it anything you want, but lock in your plans right now… this week, before the 10th of November. Don’t forget, the media will be hungry and have plenty of avails when the political junk is off the airwaves. They want to wrap up a big year as well. This could be a great win-win if you know how to negotiate.
My dear friend, the late Jolly John, who passed away about a year ago, had the most fun of any car dealer I knew in December. Jolly would don his Santa costume every day in December… he made buying fun and festive and profitable. He had a tree up in the showroom, lots of decorations and the greatest cheer of anyone I knew. He didn’t fight Santa Claus during December; he was Santa Claus!
I’d like to take the time to thank the many Dealer magazine readers who have read this magazine over the past two decades and responded to my articles for as many years. I’d like to be the first to wish you and your family and team the merriest of Christmases and a blessed holiday season, with best wishes for a roaring end to the year 2012 and bigger and better things to come in 2013.
As a little treat, I’d like to pass along three abstracts (condensations) of some great marketing/advertising reads as a token of my Thanksgiving for your attention. Just send me an e-mail with “Thanksgiving articles” in the subject line.