Forest River Inc.’s two-day dealer show held this week at the company’s headquarters on the west side of Elkhart, Ind., was “one of the best investments I ever made with Forest River,” reports Pete Liegl, Forest River’s founder and CEO.
“We hit our numbers” in terms of some 900 invited guests and 350 dealerships, Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com on Friday in assessing how well the dealer confab met his goals. “It helped” he added, likening it to a minister who “might save a few souls on Sunday but next Sunday hopes to do it again.”
Forest River’s prime mission was to further cement relationships with its dealer body and move new product at the show, held Wednesday and Thursday in a 15-acre lot adjacent to the company’s headquarters. It was the firm’s first dealer show in a decade, timed as it was in October, not all that long before RVIA’s National RV Trade Show, Dec. 2-4 in Louisville, Ky.
Amid sprawling displays containing hundreds of units – plus examples of the company’s park models and pontoon boats — Forest River rolled out its 2009 product line and garnered the best response from its Class A motorhome offerings, according to Liegl, who declined to quantity actual sales to dealers.
However, Liegl said sales were pretty much on a par with what the company anticipates doing at Louisville. “On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 10 as far as I am concerned,” said Liegl, “because it got across the message that we are financially strong.”
“With this downturn in the economy,” he said, “we have several manufacturers out there that are having a tough time — one problem being that it’s scaring a lot of dealers,” he said.
Forest River focused at the show on lending options, amid the nation’s credit crunch, which has tightened the lending environment. On hand during the show were representatives of Forest River-owned Priority One – a retail financing broker that has been making loans to retail customers for more than 20 years – and Textron, a wholesale financing company with which Forest River partnered in 2006.
Along with all the rolling stock was a predictable air of hospitality. Situated alongside the display area was an expansive tent in which cocktails and steak dinners were served and live entertainment was provided – rock music on Wednesday night and an Oktoberfest theme with a polka band on Thursday. Dealers were shuttled back and forth from area hotels, several of which were booked up with Forest River meeting attendees.
One thing Liegl learned from the show: “Next year, we’ll need a bigger tent!”