Karl Etshied, executive director of the Recreational Vehicle Aftermarket Association (RVAA), said he was pleased with the attendance at the the organization’s 39th annual Executive Conference Aug. 5-8 at the Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis, Mo.
The conference drew representatives from 16 distributorships, 60 suppliers and 13 agent companies.
“Overall, by virtue of headcount, we were down 7% from the previous year and the year before that,” said Etshied. “As an organization, we were kind of pleased by the attendance. We have heard so much over the past year and seen the numbers. We had great concerns coming into the conference.
“I don’t believe this is just ‘positive speak’ on my behalf. I noticed our members who were there came with an attitude of trying to figure out how we will proceed. They came with a very positive attitude and left with a very positive attitude.”
The RVAA is comprised of RV suppliers, distributors and manufacturers’ agents who seek to promote the benefits of the aftermarket to the RV industry as well as to work directly with industry leaders to address issues and improve conditions concerning aftermarket distribution.
Etshied said the annual conference provides members with a “unique opportunity to meet one-on-one with their most important partners in the RV industry” as well as providing many opportunities for networking and social interaction. Throughout the course of the three days, association members could schedule up to 52 individual company-to-company meetings between distributor and supplier trading partners. He said the individual meetings lasted from 20 to 60 minutes, and generally focused on product introduction, past performance between trading partners and plans for the coming year to “enhance success in the marketplace.”
“Certainly, like all segments of the RV industry, the association and its membership are looking toward a brighter future in the coming months and looking forward to that inevitable recovery that is waiting in the not-too-distant future,” Etshied said.
“Questions that were discussed among trading partners included means of making the channel work more efficiently to cut costs – both in the process of getting products to market and finally for the end user. Ultimately, for the industry to succeed, consumers will have to feel a sense of confidence that they are paying a fair price for their RV experience, and the topic of the day for RVAA members included how to make that a reality for the aftermarket.”
Among actions taken at the conference:
• A task force led by RVAA Vice President Piar Adams of Carefree of Colorado introduced a series of Best Practice Standards to the association’s membership that will help to streamline essential business transactions between supplier and distributors, thus cutting costs and time lost to the end user.
• The association introduced a new website, www.rvaahq.com, and a feature of that website – the “New Product Showcase” – which will allow RVAA members to introduce new products to the distribution community quickly and at any time during the year. RVAA said use of this tool alone by RVAA’s supplier community will help to increase the speed to market of new products.
RVAA President Mike McKay of Atlanta-based StagParkway Inc. presided over the awards dinner ceremony on Aug. 7. Awards were presented to:
• The Jim Barker Memorial Award or “Person of the Year” to Mike Keller of Keller Marine & RV, Port Trevorton, Pa. Keller has served on the RVIA’s Warranty Task Force and has been influential in the RVAA’s efforts to develop standards programs for its members.
•RVAA’s President’s Award was to Karen Arnold, Hayes Brake Controller Co., RVAA treasurer.
• Industry Partnership Awards to people who chaired task forces for the Committee on Excellence, including Debbie Brunoforte, Little Dealer, Little Prices, Phoenix, Ariz., Replacement Parts Availability Task Force; Ellen Kietzmann, Blue Ox Manufacturing, Pender, Neb., Customer Warranty Task Force; and Stan Sunshine, StagParkway, Atlanta, Ga., Industry Communication and Support Task Force.
The RVAA Board will meet via conference call in September to discuss additional ideas brought forth at the meeting and hold a full board meeting during the Louisville Show in December.
One new officer seat was elected during the association meeting. Sylvia Koppen from Aim Wholesale Inc. will serve as the association’s secretary through 2009. Additionally, a new member, Robert Dansereau from Danzy Distributors Inc., joined the association’s board for a term running into 2009.
The remainder of the slate, which featured incumbent re-nominations, is as follows: president, McKay, StagParkway Inc.; vice president, Adams, Carefree of Colorado; treasurer, Arnold, Hayes Brake Controller; past president, Ron Dempster, BRD Supply Inc.; and at large member, John Walsh, Cequent Performance Products. Their terms expire in 2009.