With more than 3,000 people in attendance — the vast majority of that being dealer personnel from across North America — and a slew of business having taken place, the 2019 NTP-STAG Expo finished what can only be described as a successful two-day run, Jan. 22-23, at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.
On the first day, more than 1,000 parts managers and other front-line dealership staff attended the RV University portion of the Expo, which included a slate of product seminars by 30-some supplier vendors as well as the Professional Retail Organization (PRO) business development seminar series.
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Following that, the Expo gave way to a day-and-a-half of trade show activity, which included more than 200 suppliers — including 17 new to the event — on the show floor exhibiting a wide range of products.
In addition, NTP-STAG officials unveiled many new and refined initiatives designed to help dealers grow their aftermarket parts and accessories business as well as help suppliers do business with NTP-STAG, the RV industry’s leading parts distributor.
Bill Rogers, vice president and general manager of Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. and its NTP-STAG RV Distribution division, both headquartered in Exeter, Pa., told RVBUSINESS.com that the Expo is all about building strong partnerships so that everyone — dealerships, suppliers and NTP-STAG — can grow their business.
It’s all in keeping with the Expo’s theme of “Raising the Water Level,” he pointed out.
“If we don’t have customers that grow, then we won’t grow,” he said. “So, how do we help them generate more business? By introducing new products and new ideas to try to help them generate more retail sales out of the same space. We do have our store-set group that go out and helps dealers reset and upgrade their stores, again in terms of the retail environment, and help them come up with the right mix of products. The whole idea is our expertise can help them sell more products; that’s what we’re ultimately trying to do, because ultimately it helps us.”
Dealers told RVBUSINESS.com that they have come to rely on NTP-STAG for their expertise and next-day shipping on most parts, as well as the Expo for ordering products — typically at show-only discounts —and discovering new parts and accessories to add to their retail inventory.
“We’re mainly coming to shows and look for the deals that you can do,” said Bob Carron, parts manager for Youngblood’s Cape Town RV in Scott City, Mo. “We take a look at what we bought last year, and then what we can supplement to that. We don’t want to overstock these days, and with the market we’re in. It makes a difference having NTP-STAG’s next-day parts availability.”
Denis Martineau, owner of Seaway Trailer Sales in Welland, Ontario, said he was at the Expo looking for insight to help grow his parts and accessories business. His self-described “mom-and-pop dealership” is often short on staff, so he was hoping to learn how to do more with less.
“We’re here to learn — you can’t grow if you don’t learn, right?” he said. “Basically, we’d like to learn what we should carry in our stores and what we should do to increase our volume from our customers. What are customers looking for? We don’t really know what’s going on out there (in the aftermarket segment at large) because we’re concentrating on our business and not looking at what’s out there and what we should do.”
For their part, suppliers had nothing but positive reports on the Expo, saying attendance was great and business was good.
DISH Network’s Mike Barrett, who serves as the national outdoors manager for the satellite television company’s Independent RV Channel, was especially pleased with the show. DISH was a major sponsor for the event and had a prominent display in the middle of the trade show floor.
“We had a fantastic show here. We were busy from morning to night. On the first night during our Power Hour (an hour of special discounts which many suppliers), I think we were the top performer of all Power Hours at the NTP show,” said Barrett, whose company claims as much as 85% market share in the satellite-based independent RV channel. “What drives that for us is we’re HD, we’re portable, the system weighs less than 10 pounds, it sets up in 10 minutes, and it’s pay as you go. That’s what makes us so attractive to the independent RV dealers and the consumers.”
Another major Expo sponsor was Pender, Neb.-based Blue Ox, which also had a “very successful show,” said President and CEO Ellen Keitzmann.
“I always love coming to our industry shows and I always look forward to show season. It’s a chance for all of us to get together and catch up,” she said. “It’s the RV industry — although it’s seems big, it’s quite small. It’s like a family coming together and catching up and getting to know each other. It was fun coming to Nashville and it’s not only about writing orders but creating the long-term, enduring relationships. That really is what business is all about.”