After Monday’s annual kick-off Aftermarket Golf Tournament held at Colorado National, the annual RV Aftermarket Executive Conference got down to business at the Embassy Suites Downtown Convention Center in Denver for a three-day (Aug. 13-15) event at which some 240 attendees including RV industry suppliers and distributors traditionally meet to develop their strategies for expanding their respective businesses in the coming year.

The conference, open to all RV Industry Association (RVIA) members, facilitates “one-on-one appointment sessions” between RV suppliers and distributors while also providing plenty of social networking opportunities.

What’s different this year, however, is that it’s the first Executive Conference held since the Recreational Vehicle Aftermarket Association (RVAA) merged into the RV Industry Association. And that’s a big deal within the ranks of the North American RV arena, agrees RVIA Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing James Ashurst.

“It is the first time that we’re all together as full-time members in RVIA,” Ashurst told RVBUSINESS.com. “The association is really excited about the opportunity to work closely with this group and continue to build upon the success of this event in the years to come. It gives RVIA, as a national trade association, a more focused outreach to a sector of the industry that we hadn’t worked with that closely before.

 “Of course, we had shared memberships where certain suppliers operated in both the OEM and aftermarket segments. But our drive at RVIA is to speak to the entire industry,” added Ashurst. “And by bringing the aftermarket folks in, it gives us a much stronger voice. Through their active participation, they’re going to help drive the direction of the organization as much as any other membership segment. We’ve enjoyed working with the leadership of the aftermarket group, and we had a great aftermarket committee meeting on Monday and talked a lot about how we can work to continue to improve this event moving forward. I think that group is going to continue to innovate and find ways that we can add value for everyone in San Diego next year and moving forward into 2021 and beyond.”

While Ashurst presented an RVIA update at Tuesday‘s luncheon, plans called for Wednesday’s lunch to include a top-line preview – and a panel discussion – regarding a second round of aftermarket parts and service research that RVIA did with RV consumers. The national trade association was expected to release additional information regarding that survey this afternoon in addition to an executive summary in a couple of weeks.

“Following the success of the 2018 survey and the value that the aftermarket segment gleaned from the results,” reported Sarah Neely, senior manager of communications and marketing for RVIA, “the association worked with Cairn Consulting to provide a deeper, more in-depth look at purchasing behavior across multiple groups. The study provides a deep analysis of the aftermarket buying process with a look at how the aftermarket contributes to the lifestyle of RVers. This year’s research was led by John Tinghitella of RV Designer, Garry Weaver of Dealer Resources Group, Jon White of NTP Stag and Scott Bahr, Cairn Consulting.”

The top-level findings from the 2019 study along with the executive summary will be released to the industry Thursday and members will be able to access the full report in the next few days, said Neely, adding that last year’s 2018 research found that the average RV aftermarket buyer made six purchases in the past two years and that four in 10 purchases were made at the location where the RV was purchased. The 2018 study also found that most buyers typically spend less than an hour in the store and end up making purchases totaling about $150.