Exhibitors Satisfied with National RV Trade Show
While attendance numbers at the recent 49th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., dropped by about 6 percent compared to 2010, exhibitors who spoke with RV PRO report they were largely satisfied with the trade show.
“We were very pleased with the amount of activity at the display and with the attendance at the show, and we are gratified with the level of business we conducted,” said Derald Bontrager, president of Jayco. “And looking back at Tuesday and Wednesday – from start to finish – we were busy and pleased with the flow of dealers through our display.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar (center), cuts a ribbon marking the symbolic start of the 49th Annual National RV Trade Show as RVIA President Richard Coon (left) and RVIA Chairman Gregg Fore (right) watch. In his keynote speech to Outlook Breakfast attendees, Salazar talked about the importance of the outdoor recreation industry to the country’s economy.
“We saw activity in all categories from our pop-up campers all the way up to our motorhomes,” he added. “And maybe most important of all, we were encouraged by the positive dealer attitudes and outlook for the coming year.”
“The show met our expectations and was one of the best ones we’ve had in Louisville. We were very pleased with the number of orders we received,” said Jerry Williamson, national sales manager for Tiffin Motorhomes.
“As far as show traffic, we had the same number of Tiffin dealers to come see us as a year ago. We noticed some of the aisles were sparse, but we had at or above the same number of dealers as last year,” Williamson added. “Our dealers were extremely interested in the new floorplans and products we introduced. We had excellent response and our relationship with our dealers at the show was very positive.”
Jay Mohamed, vice president of sales and marketing for Cruiser RV, called the trade show a homerun for his company.
“The show was a huge success for Cruiser RV – the best in the history of our company,” he said. “Heading into Louisville we didn’t really know what to expect. We assumed the traffic would be down after the large dealer open houses in Elkhart County in September, but the dealers that came to Louisville, came to buy. They all had inventory plans for the coming year and with the success our products had last year, they all ordered accordingly.
“We closed some major markets with all of our lines and our New Enterra travel trailer went over extremely well with our current and now new dealer base,” he said. “Based on the show and dealer feedback, we are looking forward to a very good 2012.”
Dustin Johns, vice president of Travel Lite, echoed the positive reaction of other manufacturers.
“To say that the Louisville show was a success for Travel Lite would be an understatement. The buzz around our new ‘Idea’ travel trailers and our completely redesigned truck campers was incredible,” he said. “New dealers fueled our numbers with 31 new dealerships signed as of this morning. … I couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come for Travel Lite in 2012 and beyond.”
Despite lower overall attendance figures compared to 2010, representatives for RV manufacturers say that they were generally pleased with the level of dealer traffic at their booths and the amount of business they did.
Sounding a somewhat more cautious note was Scott Degnan, vice president of sales for MVP RV.
“Overall, we were pleased with our results from the show; however, they were somewhat below our aggressive expectations,” he said. “Attendance seemed to be well below last year, and we did not write as many orders as we had projected writing. On a positive note, we were able to bring aboard some new dealers and increase our order position, which now solidly takes us into February.
Degnan added, “I think the RVIA needs to take a look at improving this show for the manufacturers, as the ROI seems to be coming under more and more pressure.”
Paul Murphy, president and compliance specialist with Canadian designated importing company CMVSS.com, said the show exceeded his expectations when it came to writing orders. This was his company’s first year to exhibit at the show.
“From the show, we’re probably closing with about eight to 10 new clients within the next five to 10 days,” he said. “It’s unusual to close any deals at a trade show. We ended up actually with a couple by handshake. We certainly knew we were going to get some; we didn’t have a number in mind, so we’re pleased with what came of it.”
In a personal aside, Murphy said he appreciates the trend by manufacturers to produce wheelchair-accessible RVs, a number of which were on display at the show.
“I’m a disabled consumer, and I was extremely impressed with the number of manufacturers attending that had Lift-Equip, or accessible product on the floor for people to see, or had information about their accessible product,” he said. “In today’s aging market, that is an area that really needs attention. I was quite pleased to see accessibility in every type of model, from towables to high-end Class A diesel pushers.”
Bob Brammer, president of supplier firm Stromberg Carlson, said he wasn’t surprised by the show’s lower attendance, calling it the “new normal” for the industry.
“I think people that I heard complaining were making comparisons to 2007 and even 2008, and that’s just not realistic. Times have changed,” he said. “Of the people left in the industry, it’s really well-represented at the Louisville show. Unfortunately, we all remember that there used to be 30-some more manufacturers, 80 more suppliers, and who knows how many more dealers. You can choose to either bellyache, complain and look over your shoulder to the good ol’ days, or you can adapt and move forward.”
Still, Brammer added he believes more OEMs should attend the show.
“I think it’s interesting that the aftermarket suppliers come, but many OEMs choose not to be there,” he said. “Their attitude is, ‘we see these guys every day.’ I understand that everybody is going to make their own best decisions to compete, but (my view is) come and support the industry.”
Lightweight travel trailers, smaller diesel motorhomes and full-featured fifth wheels tended to be some of the most popular RVs with dealers at the recent RVIA trade show.
Attendance at the three-day 2011 National RV Trade Show was 8,159, a decline of 537 attendees, or 6 percent, from the 2010 attendance numbers, according to RVIA. The number of RV dealership personnel at the trade show was 2,874 – down by nearly 300, or slightly more than 9 percent.
Kevin Broom, director of media relations for RVIA, said the dip in attending dealership personnel matches industry trends.
“Overall in the industry, we had a strong 2010, coming back at 46 percent. 2011 was flat and we’re projecting about flat for 2012. Most people in the RV industry are experiencing that,” he said.
In a positive development, the number of dealerships represented at the show was 1,641 – an increase of 347 dealerships, or nearly 27 percent, compared to 2010. And the combined number of accessory store personnel, campground owners and warehouse distributors was 303, up 91, or 43 percent, from 2010.
Exhibitor attendance was a mixed bag. Total member and non-member RV manufacturer exhibitors at the show numbered 1,768, a 6.6 percent increase over 2010, when 1,658 attended. The number of member and non-member supplier exhibitors decreased about 10 percent, to 2,769, down from 3,081 in 2010.
While attendance numbers are certainly relevant, Broom noted they are not the only metric for judging a show’s success.
“I think anybody who was there and walked the show and looked at the products would have to be impressed,” he said. “There were a lot of interesting new floorplans, and increases in technology – space-saving and space-using techniques – that were really innovative and interesting.”