Is Your P&A Inventory Prepped for the Winter?

Stocking accordingly for the upcoming season means knowing who and what to stock for.

It is September and to paraphrase a line from the song Autumn Leaves by Chet Baker:

“… and soon we’ll hear old winter’s song.” Many of your RV customers will be hearing old winter’s song as they anticipate the arrival of that season and the need to prep their RV.

What have you done to winterize your P&A inventory?

Have you placed – and possibly already received – orders with your suppliers for those types of items that RVers need to get their RVs ready for the next several months?

What are those types of goods that your customers will be requesting? Perhaps their lists will differ depending on where and how their RV will be spending the winter! For part-time RVers, their RV will possibly be in storage either on their property or in a storage facility. Yet, for full-timers, they might be spending their winter in the warmer climes of North America.

Perhaps you should consider the mix of goods and equipment necessary to support each of these two types of winterization as you prepare your P&A inventory for the ensuing season.

Winterizing for the Part-Timers

How could you know what to have in stock for those customers who will be preparing their RV for storage? Most likely, your Dealership Management System (the computer) contains the demand history for goods requested and sold for specific months of the previous year – or two, three or more years.

This demand history could be used as a guide for those items that have previously been stocked in your P&A inventory. However, you might have recently attended a supplier expo or noticed an ad in RV PRO for newly released winterization items and have decided that some of these could also be of interest to your customers.

Perhaps you have developed a winterization display in your retail area – and possibly a separate one in the service write-up area.

Have you developed shopping lists for your customers to ensure that they add every winterization item to their shopping basket? You do have shopping baskets available for your customers, don’t you? More stuff can be carried in a shopping basket than can usually be carried in your customer’s hands. It also enables the customer to reach for an item without dropping the other things they are carrying.

These shopping lists are especially helpful for first-time RVers who probably have never prepared their RV for storage. And maybe a shopping basket won’t be sufficient for some of the items these first-timers will require, such as wheel covers, solar-powered battery chargers, black water holding tank chemicals and other such items.

Perhaps some one-on-one assistance by a parts associate could ensure that your first-timers get everything they need to make certain their RV is properly prepared for winter storage. The parts associate could carry the larger items to the cash-out station.

Do you say you don’t have enough parts associates to provide this one-on-one assistance? Maybe you do yet haven’t “hired” them yet. What if you contacted some of your existing customers who have experience with prepping their RV for storage and offered them a special discount to work a few hours each week?

What if you had your RV sales agents contact the first-timers to whom they have sold this year and offered to coordinate a date/time for a personalized winterization shopping experience? During the phone call, the RV sales agent might inquire as to where and how the customer will be storing their RV. By gathering this information, a customer-ized package of goods and equipment could be awaiting the customer’s arrival for their appointment.

If you control when your customers will be shopping for their RV storage supplies, then perhaps you do have enough parts associates.

Maybe these concepts are a bit outside the box for some of you. But how many of your competitors offer this customer-ized service? Do you aspire to offer a cookie-cutter shopping experience? Or do you want to be the place that RVers seek out and recommend?

Okay, enough of these crazy ideas. Besides, we haven’t considered the materials and equipment that might be required and requested by the full-timers who will be using their RV during the winter.

On the Road Again – Or for the First Time?

As with those RVers who will be storing their units for the winter, there are full-timers who are first-timers, and there are full-timers who have been doing this for a while.

For your full-timer customers who have been doing this for a while, perhaps you could have a display area that contains new items that could enhance their travels during the next few months. These could be materials and equipment that have been recently released and which you have noticed when attending an expo or from your review of your issues of RV PRO.

And, if you have a relationship with these experienced full-timers, you probably have an idea of their spending limitations and of their RV lifestyles so you can customer-ize your presentation to each of them.

Yet, what about those first-time full-timers? Yes, most of them will have been RVing for several years; however, this might be their first year of year-round living and traveling in their RV. Will they be using their existing RV? Or have they purchased a replacement RV to support their full-timing?

Will they be traveling to a winter destination where they might stay for extended periods? Or will they be traveling from destination to destination with short stays at each location?

Will your first-time full-timer be staying in RV resorts or other locations that provide full hookups? Or will there be some locations that will entail dry camping with limited or no hookups?

These questions and possibly others will assist you in properly preparing your first-time full-timers for the winterization of their RV.

Yes, it’s More Work From Selway

By now, some of you might be commenting on the extra work that my suggestions require. However, others of you might be excited about the additional sales opportunities that some of my suggestions might generate. The difference will be in the preparations you make for winterizing your RV business!


Mel Selway

Mel Selway is the president of P.A.R.T.S. Inc., a Sahuarita, Arizona-based firm providing business management analysis and training to retailers. He can be reached at 520-336- 8606 or melselway@aol.com.

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