Preparations are well underway for the 2018 RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards, an industry tradition culminating in a gala reception and awards presentation on the evening of Nov. 7 at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel during the 2018 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, co-hosted Nov. 5-9 by the U.S.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and RVDA of Canada.

“Manufacturers’ nominations are, for the most part, in hand and applications are already being forwarded to those dealers for the annual Top 50 awards, which again focus on North American dealerships that have built a reputation for sound business practices, marketing savvy, charitable outreach and outstanding customer care,” reported Elkhart, Ind.-based PR executive BJ Thompson of BJ Thompson Associates (BJTA).

By the same token, Thompson added, sales volume has never been the key driver for the awards, which were first introduced 10 years ago by California-based Trailer Life magazine’s publisher Affinity Group Inc. The awards today are facilitated by G&G Media Group LLC, publishers of RVBusiness and Woodall’s Campground Management magazines, and are sponsored by Airxcel, Ally Financial Inc., Brown & Brown Insurance, Cummins Power Generation, Dometic Corp., Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Lippert Components Inc., NTP-STAG, Protective Asset Protection and Wells Fargo CDF.

“The RVB Top 50 program, philosophically speaking, traces its roots back to one of the most aspirational movements in the industry’s history, the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence, a grassroots phenomenon that emerged within the industry in the early 2000s that was focused on raising the bar with regard to customer care and professionalism in general until it – like so many other things – fell by the wayside in the Great Recession,” added RVBusiness Publisher Sherm Goldenberg.

RVB Top 50 Dealer Awards Coordinator Barb Riley, buoyed by the initial response from nominating manufacturers, anticipates a strong level of participation from dealers who are asked to fill out relatively detailed Top 50 applications, from which a panel of industry experts determines the finalists during a two-day session in early September at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart.

Aside from recognition at the awards ceremony during the RVDA Con/Expo, Riley pointed out that Top 50 dealers receive visible exposure on various industry-related websites as well as print coverage in G&G’s RVBusiness, RVDA’s RV Executive Today and FMCA’s Family RVing magazines, among others. “We provide a press release template that dealers can personalize for distribution to their local and regional media outlets, which amounts to direct exposure to a wide spectrum of consumers,” noted Riley.

Top 50 dealers may also utilize for a year the trademarked Top 50 logo in their stores (window decals are provided), marketing materials, advertising, employee apparel, show signage, Christmas cards, etc., attesting to the fact that they have been designated as one of North America’s best RV retailers. “And we’ve learned over the years that they’re also experiencing benefits just in the process of applying,” added Thompson. “Discussion on common customer service practices is what good dealers do, and it’s one of the things our Top 50 dealers value. Instead of a 20 Group roundtable, it’s sort of a 50 Group.”

After completed applications are received by the Aug. 17 deadline, the independent panel of judges will convene to select the Top 50 roster, calling out five exemplary Blue Ribbon dealers plus the winners of the Gaylord Maxwell Innovation Award sponsored by Lippert Components Inc. for creative business strategies and the Arthur J. Decio Humanitarian Award sponsored by Ally Financial Inc. for charitable endeavors.