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By The Numbers
By Dan Schechner on March 2, 2020

Each year for the last 30-plus, PRI Magazine has produced a comprehensive survey of motorsports retail businesses across the US. Although time- and labor-intensive (shout-out to Managing Editor Meredith Kaplan Burns and our partners in SEMA’s research department for much of the heavy lifting), this report is invaluable in the information it collects and the intel it provides.

Beyond confirming what we suspect to be true—that drag racing and street/strip are currently the industry’s biggest and fastest-growing market segments, for example, or that most companies today cover more than one type of racing—it always manages to reveal some interesting or surprising tidbits about how engine builders, fabricators, dealers, machinists, tuner/installers, service/repair and race prep shops operate.

Consider that for racing businesses in 2019, the third fastest-growing market behind the eighth- and quarter-milers was… vintage! Maybe not a total shock, since we’ve been reporting for some years on these competitors’ vast disposable incomes and willingness to spend. Not to mention the impressive strides made by organizations like the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA). But we didn’t necessarily expect it to outpace stock cars, modifieds or road racers nationwide.

Our survey, which was conducted late last year, also provided reasons to feel good about the current state of racing and performance retail. Almost nine out of 10 business owners told us that sales have either held steady (46%) or increased (43%) over the last 12 months. Similar percentages were reported when we asked whether their customer bases had grown (50%), stayed the same (41%), or shrunk (9%) from the previous year.

But wait, there’s more—so much more…

For one, we discovered some definite lines in the sand when it comes to marketing trends. Social media, for instance, has now overtaken word of mouth as racing companies’ go-to means of promotion. Sponsorship remains a viable strategy, too, but not nearly to the degree of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. As for websites, well, they appear to be falling out of favor, as only 44% of the companies we polled said they even have one. Among the top reasons given for not maintaining a site, lack of perceived value and the time required to build/maintain were cited most often. Of note, several also reported some version of “Can’t keep up with all the business I have” or “I run a small shop and we’re fully booked” for bypassing a URL.

Equally attention-grabbing were revelations about the impact of tariffs on imported goods; how often retail businesses attend races at their local tracks; whether these companies also manufacture the products they sell; and a host of other insights and takeaways on motorsports products and services.  

The data we collected and the story it tells, which begins on page 20 of PRI Magazine's March issue, truly connects the dots of a dynamic industry. It lets us know which types of racing are moving the retail needle, and how business is getting done for thousands of small and mid-sized companies in this space. We encourage you to review this information closely, and to use it to your professional advantage as you embark on this first racing season of a brand new—and hopefully prosperous—decade!

About the Author
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Dan Schechner is the Editor of Performance Racing Industry Magazine.
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