Indoor booth area at last year's Hershey Show

With the opening of “America’s Largest RV Show” less than two weeks away, organizers are anticipating a banner edition for the annual event that traditionally provides a timely checkup regarding the RV industry’s overall health.

“The show has always provided a fine testing ground for new products, which the vast majority will be 2013 model year,” said Rebecca Lenington, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA) which sponsors the show. “It’s truly a unique selling environment because it draws a mix of industry people and retail consumers. That hybrid format lets manufacturers not only intermix with dealers, but also get feedback from the end buyer.”

The event kicks off with Industry Days on Sept. 10-11, followed by Public Days Sept. 12-16 at the massive Giant Center complex in Hershey, Pa.

Lenington reported that display space square footage is up markedly for all categories from last year. Overall space increased 6.64%, broken down into an 11% gain for supplier booths and 6.88% for manufacturers. OEMs signing on for the demo lot, which allows attendees to take a test drive, are also up 3%.

PRVCA reported 1,092 units will be on display at America's Largest RV Show

“One of the real encouraging numbers is that, as of right now, we are going to have 1,092 units on display,” Lenington said. “And for our Industry Days, pre-registration shows 93 rolling stock dealerships, 23 aftermarket dealers and 47 campground resorts.”

Lenington said that the strong response had prompted organizers to consider expanding the available square footage for the 2013 show.

“This year, we’re going to have booth vendors all the way down the sidewalk leading into the Giant Center,” she said. “The concrete entranceway is also going to be packed solid. We have compiled a wait list, but I think we’re officially done, with the exception of companies that are already signed up that want to expand.

“After looking at the numbers, we realize we need to go up on the overall square footage. Next year we are thinking about adding an outside tent for exhibitors.” She added that judging by feedback from Facebook and other online sources, the gate could top last year’s 36,400 total attendance.

While product always takes center stage at the show, Lenington noted that “education is also a big part of what we offer.” This year’s seminar roster for Industry Days offers an expanded scheduled and a new format. “Before we had a lot of hour-long seminars,” said Heather Leach, PRVCA education director. “This year we will be holding clinics that run from 10 a.m to 4 p.m.”

Programs include:

• The opening day lineup includes an F&I Clinic with speaker Tim Spencer from Protective Asset Protection. This one-day training course focuses on the finance and insurance function in the RV dealership. Learn everything from the laws and regulations to creating a higher rate of customer satisfaction. Fee is $50 per person, which includes lunch.

• During a seminar offered on both Monday and Tuesday, Don Bary will explain how to get RV technicians certified without having to pay for costly hotels and travel expenses. The RV Technician Distance Learning Program allows students to study from the comfort of their home. Registration is free.

• Tuesday kicks off with an all-star morning at Chocolate World that includes a breakfast, inspirational message and “Meet and Greet” with former NFL running back Marcus Allen. Autographed footballs, mini-helmets and photos are available for purchase and benefits the PRVCA PAC fund. Allen will also share his secrets on how you too can become a champion. Fee is $25 per person, which includes breakfast.

• A service writer clinic, conducted by Chuck Marzahn, starts off a full education day at the Giant Center. The clinic will allow service writers, service managers and others a chance to look at the very basics of service writers and learn practical strategies to help their businesses. Fee is $50 per person, which includes lunch. Bonus: Earn 5 RVDA CEUs for attending this seminar.

• Bernie Jwaszewski will show how to navigate the sea of social networking. Learn how to make it work for your business with the help of Jwaszewski’s insight and experience. Registration is free. Bonus: Earn 1 CPO credit by attending this seminar.

• Ron Wheeler of Wheeler Advertising, which specializes in marketing for RV dealerships, will lead “How to Advertise in a Complex Marketplace.” Advertising in today’s world is a difficult job, especially with so many different choices. Wheeler will offer tips on understanding the world of digital, mobile social and traditional marketing. Fee is $50 per person. Bonus: Earn 3.5 CPO credits for attending this seminar.