Four Ways to Update Your Store, and How to Get Started

EVERYONE has a starting point.

Powersports retailing is not like retailing in other industries. Because it is made up primarily of independent Dealers, with a variety of brands representing many kinds of enthusiasts, the retail environments are not the same.

The challenge is to find continued relevance.

Your building was most likely not a ground-up, designed for your business. We work with many Dealers on renovations of buildings that used to be car dealerships, big box retailers, even fire stations. The fundamentals are usually in place ̶ a sign, a parking lot, an outside display, a showroom with lighting, units on some kind of floor, and accessories and clothing on a variety of wall and freestanding fixtures.

Where to start?

Examine your signage. So many Dealers have major investments in signage, and it pays off for them as 24-hour advertisements. If you have discolored, broken, hand-painted or missing lights, you must fix it or remove it immediately.

Need motivation? Think “10 percent off” for every sad feeling the consumer has while looking at it.

A critical eye. Take down everything outdated ̶ posters, banners, flyers, magazines, outdated videos and empty boxes ̶ in every area, including your showroom, offices, parts department and service. There are two important reasons for doing this: First, by leaving up old items, you convey to your customers that you are not a source of new information and current thinking; and second, you may find you have more space available than you thought.


Patching and painting. If you are not planning a big project, patching and painting is one of the least expensive fixes to make. Dinged, dingy walls don’t appear “prosperous.” Outdated colors or painting techniques appear out of touch and off-trend - geared toward discounting. Exterior, trim, sign poles, showroom walls, ceilings, service departments, bathrooms - all of it is fair game.

What colors should you use? That’s a question we frequently field. Color conveys feeling (important, yes, why you became a Dealer, probably not). We aim to provide color recommendations that are an extension of your dealership’s personality.


Color selection is complex. The Pantone Color Institute named "Ultra Violet" as the Color of the Year for 2018. Why? Well, they say "Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future," Pantone said.

But then, Sherwin Williams named its color of the year: Oceanside 6496. It's “a collision of rich blue with jewel-toned green, a color that is both accessible and elusive," the company said. "A complex, deep color that offers a sense of the familiar with a hint of the unknown, Oceanside bridges together a harmonious balance of blues and greens that can be found in what's old and new.”

OK, perhaps that’s too many words to convey color for our gearhead minds, but you get the gist. Colors evoke a feeling or two: Honda red, Kawasaki green, Harley orange. What’s your own color “brand” going to be?

Practical, or fantastical? Fantastical is great, but you also have to focus on workability. Is your customer flow working for you and maximizing the space? Clear pathways and department signage can be relatively inexpensive ways to direct traffic. In many cases, your parts counter is also your cash wrap or transaction area.

Clearing the clutter is cheap; expanding the physical space because you have outgrown it is more expensive – but it may be worthwhile, because it is “the office” for many of your people. I was in a national retailer recently, and noticed that it is forcing the salespeople in one of their larger departments to leave their areas to ring up sales at the end of an aisle with their backs to the customer. The salespeople despise it as it’s too far to make eye contact with the next customer and the area is too cramped to treat the current customer well during the transaction. It feels outdated and not thoughtful.

Cramped quarters behind the counter also can lead to territory battles and job dissatisfaction. Clear the clutter first. Next, measure. We recommend 5 feet of well-organized space per person for effectiveness.

ATTENTION! All Dealers, but particularly those non-franchised shops: What are your particular challenges when it comes to retail design? For those of you who have already responded to our survey with Dealernews, thank you! But we’d love to have more respondents – and we look forward to sharing the results. CLICK HERE to take the survey.

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Paige Wittman is a partner in the Miller Wittman Retail Design Group. She has 25 years of sales, marketing, design, retail and channel development experience. She has dedicated her career to developing winning sales teams, powerful distribution channels, and retail programs for leading brands. She can be reached at or visit the company's website at

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