Arrow Distributing Inc. again delivered a diverse and engaging format to attendees during the distributor’s signature Exhibitor’s Showcase held Jan. 16-17 at the IP Casino Resort & Spa’s in Biloxi, Miss.
“We want to provide dealers with a show that offers an educational component while also giving them a comfortable environment to network and renew old relationships,” said Andy Mullin, who serves as vice president for the privately-owned Omaha, Neb.-based company along with Andrea Mullin.
Mullin stressed, however, the heart of the annual event is all business. “It’s definitely a buying and selling show, and people were writing orders,” he told RVBUSINESS.com. “This is the largest event that we host all year and is the best buying opportunity for dealers because of our pricing. A lot of the dealers, many who have been with us since the company’s founding in 1981, stock up on half of their top-selling inventory for the year. It gives us a reading, or a barometer, for how the first couple of quarters of the year will go.
“Dealers were very optimistic,” he added. “I didn’t hear any talk of potential stings to slow the industry down, which you will occasionally hear. Our sales numbers reflected that upbeat mood.”
Mullin reported that over 100 vendors “maxed out capacity” at the IP Casino and Resort’s exhibit hall while dealer numbers represented an increase of around 20% from 2017.
“We were really happy with the turnout,” he said. “We actually had to turn away some vendors, which we hate to do, but there just wasn’t any more room. We are beginning the search for a larger venue to host future shows.”
Following preparation training for Arrow personnel on Monday, the company hosted a full day of 45-minute vendor seminars on Tuesday. “We had two seminars going on simultaneously all day,” Mullin related. “The seminars were very well attended with over 100 people on average in each session. The vendors found them extremely beneficial and sales reflected that.
“At 3 p.m we opened the exhibit hall, giving vendors time to set up while we ran the seminars. Dealers took an initial walkthrough and then we hosted a cocktail reception inside the hall. Something that we started doing a couple of year’s ago was to have the vendors stay open during the reception. It makes for a long day, but there were no complaints from vendors because they were writing orders.”
Wednesday was dedicated to the show floor with exhibit hall doors opening at 8 a.m. “The vendors stayed open again during that evening’s cocktail reception,” Mullin said. “It’s important to give the dealers as much time on the floor as possible. Before we changed the format dealers were telling us that they just didn’t have enough time to make the rounds.”
Mullin reported that Wednesday’s agenda also included a new twist as Arrow launched a “Poker Run,” adding a new element to the traditional “power hour.”
“Every hour during the show, one vendor would offer a product at a steep discount, which we matched,” Mullin said. “If dealers placed a qualifying order, they received a playing card, so if they bought five items they had a full hand. At 6:00 we tallied the cards and the dealer with the winning hand was awarded cash. People got really excited.”
In addition to conducting business, Arrow also looks at the show as a way to reinforce relationships with its dealers and vendors — an area that has become paramount for an independent company with the widespread consolidation in recent years that has dwindled the playing field.
“We hold our relationships in extremely high regard,” Mullin stated. “We continue to offer competitive pricing, but our main advantage is responsive customer service, working with customers on a day-in-day-out basis. It’s how we earn their loyalty. If a customer has issues we tackle it just as hard if not harder today as we did years ago. We believe it’s that personal touch that sets us apart.
“Another acclaim for Arrow is that we don’t sell direct to consumers online, which competes with the dealers. We don’t do that and I think it’s responsible for some of dealer migration we’ve experienced.”
While continuing to do business in the manner customers are accustomed to, Mullin said that consolidation has also necessitated reevaluation in other areas of operation.
“We are constantly strategizing, listening to our dealers and their needs, and adapting our business model to keep pace with the changing times and changing needs of dealers. We keep evaluating our pricing, our systems and our processes in order to keep improving.
“One area that becomes vital is offering dealers responsive delivery of product. Because of increased deliveries by competitors we have stepped up our frequency in certain key markets to offer next day and even same day delivery. We have to keep evolving, and customers recognize that. We want to make it easy for companies to do business with Arrow.”