Stand Out at RV Shows

Dealers wanting to catch eyes at consumer shows should take note.

If you ever feel like you’re not getting enough exercise, walk an RV show at a local expo or convention center. I’m pretty sure I lost a few pounds when I attended Oregon’s Portland Metro RV Dealers show this past March. I went because I was curious to see how the RV retailers in my area would set themselves apart from one another.

Some of the dealers were very visually savvy, while others went with the bare minimum of visuals. They all get business, and I don’t have the stats on who does more in their showroom and at off-site shows, but I do know that some were very memorable while others were virtually anonymous. By the way, the show was very busy and in more than a few cases, I had to wait my turn to view the inside of an RV. According to a friend who works for a successful dealership, they did great business at this show.

Looking nondescript is simple. Summed up in four words – have almost no signs. Several dealers were unidentifiable. There were no banner signs, or maybe one by the first RV unit. If you were walking the show coming from any other direction, you’d go past at least 10 RVs without any idea of who the dealer is. Every RV needs a dealer sign on or near the door and/or inside the unit. If you have many units lined up on either side of a long carpet and there’s a wall at the end, make sure there’s a large sign at the end of “your” walkway telling people who the RVs belong to.

If you want to be noticed, creativity is a huge plus! Imagine an expo center with more than a hundred RVs of all sizes, types and lengths lined up under fairly awful lights with bare concrete aisles covered by a 1/4-inch of industrial carpet. When you enter this world, you forget that nature even exists – but one of the major purposes of owning an RV is to get out and experience nature.

Camper Eye Candy

This children’s play area deemed “Camp Curtis” to keep kids busy while their parents shopped. It worked!

Curtis Trailers in Oregon’s Beaverton and Portland did a terrific job of creating a strong identity, setting themselves and its RVs apart, along with highly experiential areas for adults and children. Each RV dealer had a choice (as far as I could tell) of carpet color. Curtis brilliantly chose green, which says “nature.”

In each of its RVs, it added accessories that were attractive and made sense with the overall décor of each unit. In one upscale RV, there was a wood chopping board in the kitchen with a red bowl, large spoon and open cookbook on the countertop. The red color was continued with a small red pot on the stove. Sitting on the nearby table was a red salt and pepper shaker set. The small splashes of red carried the viewers eyes around the entire kitchen/dining area. In the bedroom was an open red book with matching red pillows. A red throw on the bottom bunk bed in the kid’s bedroom tied all the rooms together. Using a warm color to lead the eye around an RV makes it memorable. Red is the No. 1 best color for sales, but beware, a little goes a long way. Curtis did it right using small amounts in each space. Too much red and people would have hurried out as it can cause irritability and impatience.

In the Curtis area of the expo center, the dealership added fake trees, wood signs and somewhat realistic-looking animals such as bunnies and squirrels made of wood and straw. At the end of each of their aisles hung large photo blow-ups of nature that drew people down the long walkways.

What got me excited enough to write this column were Curtis’ “experiential zones” at the ends of the main

aisle. They created a very fun selfie spot with a huge photo mural and tiny trailer in front, a fake fire and real wood stumps to sit on around the fire. They provided fake (I hope) hot dogs to pretend roast over the fire, while a parent or partner took photos. In another area, picnic tables were set up with games for kids to play while their parents toured the RVs. This experiential zone also had a video and larger “stand-on” games for two children to play together. In a few other areas, Curtis displayed add-ons such as a small boat, motorcycle, bike, chairs, grills, a tent that attached to the top of a trailer with stairs, and a stackable washer/dryer unit all on artificial turf that brought nature into equation.

Curtis Trailers’ area with lighting for visitors to take selfies.

Other dealerships added a few things – such as fake rocks, trees and a deer in the Camping World area. More was definitely better, and the continuity of Curtis Trailers’ display made a difference. It was fun! I also liked their two signs showing photos of all their employees from each location to honor them.

Who’s Selling This RV?

If you choose to be part of an RV expo show, go the extra mile and start collecting accessories now. Stores that are (sadly) going out of business such as Bed Bath & Beyond carry lots of decorative accessories. Estate, garage and tag sales, Target, dollar stores, Walmart, Goodwill and similar stores are great resources for decorative accessories. Pick color themes to tie together what you buy. Then, put things that belong together visually (by color and use) in a box, label it and store it for the next show – one box per RV. Make sure to air out any comforters, throws and pillows before the show to make sure they don’t have any odors.

When you attend these shows as an exhibitor or to check out the competition, make sure to walk the side aisles where the independent vendors show their wares. There are some interesting and fun things you can add to your merchandise assortment that no one else may have yet. For example, Trash Snap – trash bag holders for cars, kitchens, RV areas where a trash basket would just roll around.

Whatever you do, please add floor-standing banner signs at either end of your aisles and a sign inside each unit reminding people of who is selling this lovely RV.

Linda Cahan

Linda Cahan of Cahan & Co. has a proven track record of helping retailers of all stripes to look better to sell more. She consults with retailers of all sizes and categories to improve their bottom line through creative, affordable and appropriate visual merchandising, store design and retail renovations.

Related Articles

Back to top button