Troy James

Dutchmen RV President Troy James, the new chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Trade Show & Events committee, said he’s “excited at the opportunity” and chief among his priorities is how best to evolve the National RV Trade Show.

James, who took over the committee’s chair upon the resignation of Jim Jacobs as president of the REV Recreation Group last November, will have his first chance to lead the committee when the group meets at the 2018 RV Leadership Conference, the annual meeting hosted by RVIA set for Jan. 14-15 at the Marriott Tampa Waterside Hotel & Marina in Tampa, Fla.

“First and foremost, I really am excited about the opportunity,” James told RVBUSINESS.com. “There is the need to adjust or change what the industry has referred to as the Louisville Show that’s been on the agenda – or on people’s minds at least – for the last several years, if not longer. Of course, with Open House and the impact that it’s had on what Louisville was to so many people in the industry, it certainly has propelled the need for change to take place.”

James added that he’s equally excited to be working with RVIA staff, including President Frank Hugelmeyer and Senior Vice President of Trade Shows & Events Liz Crawford, as they determine how the Louisville Show “can best serve the industry.”

“The reality is that at one point Louisville’s main focus was orders, orders, orders,” James said. “But, over the last several years, the buying cycle for dealers has changed. It’s more of an ongoing process. A large number of orders are taken at Open House. Also, the way dealers do business has changed. They’re more sophisticated. They don’t wait necessarily for an event to place orders.”

Coupled with that, James said that OEMs have changed the way they do business with suppliers.

“We’re constantly in contact with local suppliers and national suppliers, to know what those new ‘widgets’ are. We’re not waiting to stumble upon one at a booth at an industry event,” he said. “Really, there’s a need for change on both sides. I’m excited to be part of that.”

James did praise the several programs and activities that were new to the 2017 National RV Trade Show, mentioning the Top Tech Challenge and Industry Awards Night in particular.

“The tech competition is certainly a needed thing. While we’ve seen unprecedented growth on the sales side of things, one of the areas that we’ve been lagging on in the industry is on the service side. I’d say everybody is aware of that,” he said. “I think having some focus on the technical side, or the service side, at this industry event is a step in the right direction. The response to it by dealers was favorable and something I feel we need to expand upon going forward, whether it’s at the show or in some other event.”

Likewise, he said the Industry Awards Night was another success, adding that “getting everybody together there, having it under one roof and having an opportunity to celebrate successes in the industry is definitely a step in the right direction to having some uniformity going forward.”

That said, James reiterated the need for the Louisville Show to up the ante as far as giving people a reason to participate and attend.

“I would say that there are no sacred cows – that’s the easiest way for me to describe it – meaning, everything is on the table, from the positioning on the calendar, to what the show actually looks like, to the facility, to whether it stays in Louisville or it is relocated,” he said. “Everything is on the table and everything is being considered.”

As the committee prepares for the meetings in Tampa, James said the overriding factor in all decisions regarding the Louisville Show is to “make sure we’re keeping in mind what this event really is about, and that’s strengthening our dealer partners as well as supplier interests.”

“It’s just a matter of dialing in what this show really looks like. What does it need to be? They have halls and halls and halls of widgets. Is it necessarily the right direction?” he said.

“I think one of the things that we all can agree on is the need to have focus on new innovation,” James continued. “So what does that mean? That means that, not only from an OEM’s standpoint and having some sort of highlight for that, but also having highlights and opportunity for our supply side partners to showcase their new widgets as well. That’s one of the things on the table. How do we go about highlighting or showcasing those innovative things and making a bigger deal out of innovation?

“This industry has been known to be innovative. I think that’s kind of been lost over the last few years. You don’t hear much of anything coming out of that show from innovation. It’s time to get back to showcasing innovation,” he concluded.