Destination Harley-Davidson: Surviving the Great Recession

Destination Harley-Davidson: Surviving the Great Recession

Written by Diana Olmstead

There has been a considerable amount of discussion over the past several years regarding what most people refer to as the “Great Recession”. No doubt about it, individuals struggled, families struggled and the motorcycle industry struggled. Not surprisingly, given their huge overhead, Harley-Davidson dealers in particular had it rough during the Great Recession.

While meeting with Ed Wallace Jr, owner of Destination H-D in Tacoma to discuss advertising we began to talk about how long we’d known each other, what life and the motorcycle scene was like “back in the day” and how he personally and his dealership adapted and adjusted to the economic conditions both locally and nationally. Ed Jr was incredibly honest, and although I’ve known Ed Jr since the mid 90’s I had never sat down with him and had a personal discussion with him like were having at that moment. I learned quite a bit about him and the dealership. Trust me when I say that it’s a myth that all Harley-Davidson dealership owners have always had a “silver spoon in their mouths”.

I felt that the things he shared with me would be of real interest to our readers, so with his permission this is the personal story of how Ed Jr set about to insure that Destination Harley-Davidson would not only survive those difficult times but remain a strong competitive force within the local motorcycle scene:

By 2006 many dealers within the region had either taken on a buyout, built a new facility or both. Destination Harley-Davidson was one of those dealers.

In 2006 Harley-Davidson shipped 273,212 to domestic dealers. By 2010 only 131,636 motorcycles were shipped. That’s a 52% drop in 4 years.

Sales of new motorcycles at Destination Harley-Davidson dropped 66% from their peak of 887 new units in 2008 to 299 new units sold in 2011. In 2012 overall revenue was up slightly. Destination Harley-Davidson went from the 10th largest dealer in the nation by allocation in 2005, to barely above average size for a Harley-Davidson dealer by allocation today.

Pierce County had it extra tough during the recession with localized sales off 66% with local unemployment steadily running 2 points above King County and over a point above Thurston County throughout the Recession. During that time Destination H-D saw their net profits fall 100%, before rebounding to 40% of the pre-recession peak.

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About Diana Olmstead