If motorcycling through central and western Tennessee, one Harley-Davidson dealer name rises above the others in both quantity and quality; that dealer name is Bumpus. With stores in Memphis, Collierville, Jackson, Murfreesboro, and Lynchburg, the Bumpus dealership network is well known and well respected.
In a recent sit-down interview Scott Bumpus, owner of the Jackson location, and his Marketing Manager, Brittany Crouse, the foremost question was how and why has the Bumpus family been able to do so well when other dealerships in recent years have been forced to close. Scott said simply, “We have been able to shift with the times.”
For Bumpus, a shift with the times included new ways to market both the Harley-Davidson brand and the Bumpus brand. Marketing today relies heavily on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram rather than print or radio. For Bumpus Harley-Davidson, hash-tagging is a way of life!
Many would-be riders, both old and young, are also watching Sons of Anarchy. Early in the production of this television show, Harley-Davidson signed on as a sponsor. Although the life-style choices, such as drug dealing or murder, featured on the show are not something most riders strive for, the feeling of club and community among the motorcyclists on this television show does come through. Dealerships, such as Bumpus, capitalize on this need to belong; the dealership then becomes the clubhouse.
At Bumpus Harley-Davidson in Jackson, this clubhouse atmosphere is achieved with not only the usual lounge with free WiFi for guests but also special events on the weekends. In warm weather, Saturday nights mean entertainment, food, and a place just to hang out.
All this marketing to newer and younger riders does not mean that Bumpus ignores its core base. Scott defined the core as those who have been loyal to the Motor Company over the years.
Many years ago, that core, according to Scott, was someone who could put down a sizeable down payment on a motorcycle that he would not see for months. Today certain attributes still apply to that earlier core rider; however, the age group has taken a significant trend down and now includes anyone over 30 but some college education and disposable income still play a role in the makeup of the average Harley-Davidson owner.
In addition, more and more women are riding motorcycles and specifically, Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Nationally, women make up about 10% of the owners of Harley-Davidson; Scott estimates his dealership trends a little higher than that national figure for female owners and riders.
In other words, Harley-Davidson is no longer just for old guys.
After discussing marketing and trends in Harley-Davidson dealerships, the conversation switched to the history of the Bumpus brand in western Tennessee.
Neither Scott nor any of the other members of the Bumpus family were “born into” being Harley-Davidson dealers; it was not until the mid-1980s that the Bumpus family bought a Harley-Davidson dealership.
At that time, Scott’s father had a management position with a major railroad company in Chicago. Suddenly his oldest son became very ill and subsequently had a stroke. The son was unable to continue in his current occupation and too young to start a life of disability.
Dad asked, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would it be.”
Son answered, “All I ever wanted to do was ride motorcycles.”
Dad began searching out dealerships and heard through the grapevine that a Harley-Davidson dealership might be for sell in Memphis, Tennessee. Dad approached the owner and eventually made an offer and, in August of 1986, opened the first Bumpus Harley-Davidson dealership. One of his first employees was his oldest son.
Over the years, the other four sons joined the business and all four eventually opened their own dealerships.
While at the Jackson location, one thing noticed was that although Scott is definitely up on his marketing skills with regards to social media, he is also old-school in his approach to customers; everyone walking through the door is treated like an old friend and a valued customer.
That attention to the customer may be the underlying factor in the success of the Bumpus brand.