RV manufacturers and suppliers attending the RVX Exhibitor Academy, the two-day sneak preview held earlier this week (July 24 and 25) for the RV Industry Association’s new spring show — “RVX: The Experience” — told RVBUSINESS.com they learned a lot and are eager to learn even more as details continue to develop on this first-ever event slated for March 12-15 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Designed to “provide a better understanding of the opportunities RVX presents,” the session drew about 50 industry attendees and included informative presentations arranged by RVIA’s events team in which outside experts and association staff discussed a myriad number of topics ranging from exhibit marketing and services to sponsorship opportunities and how to work with media.

The exhibitor meeting also provided the opportunity for attendees to get acclimated to the host city as well as check out hotels and the many outdoor recreation options the region has to offer. The outing included a venue tour of the Salt Palace Convention Center and a city tour hosted by Visit Salt Lake.

RVIA is hosting a second Exhibitor Academy Aug. 8 in Elkhart, Ind.

Bob Parish

RVIA Chairman Bob Parish, a vice president of Wells Fargo CDF, told RVBUSINESS.com the intent of the RVX Exhibitor Academy was to provide people with better information on what the show is all about as well as to “start managing expectations to what the new show will deliver.”

“At the end of this, we’ve always approached a show by judging it with a number of sales as being whether or not it was a successful show,” said Parish. “Here, we’re going to try to reach through to the consumer and make greater sales for all. So, we’re all trying to reach through and work from the consumer backwards in this new RVX Experience.”

Jim Hess, RV industry manager for Elkhart-based supplier ASA Electronics, who was attending the academy with Monica Pletcher, ASA’s marketing manager, told RVBUSINESS.com his expectations are that RVX is going to be “new, innovative, very forward-thinking and get us more along the lines of a lot of the other industries out there like the automotive industry that are doing conceptual things, getting customer feedback and, hopefully, launching us three years out, and five years out, instead of just looking to the next year’s model change.”

ASA is planning on exhibiting at RVX because, as an electronics company, “it’s kind of the norm to continuously keep moving,” said Hess. “We’re happy to take this to the next level and not be necessarily a selling show,” he added. “With our industry, we’re very engineering-driven and so we do a lot of pushing, and hopefully this RVX will help us with some of the pull-through on technology being adopted into the RV industry.”

Pletcher, for her part, said RVX very much fits within the company’s overall marketing plans, but added that, given her additional duties as ASA Electronics’ trade show manager, she was most interested in finding more out about the exhibit space and logistics at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center. “Also, I’d like to see what marketing efforts they’re going to be doing to promote the show and the different things that we might be able to do to promote ourselves at our booth at the show,” she said.

Andy Baer

Andy Baer, assistant general manager for Red Bay, Ala.-based Tiffin Motorhomes Inc., said he had two reasons for attending the RVX Academy, the first being simply to learn more about the venue. He also wanted to find out more about the “goal” of RVX. “Obviously, we’ve got a big paradigm shift here for what the purpose of this event is compared to what we’ve done in the past,” he said, alluding to the traditional National RV Trade Show held annually for years in Louisville, Ky., that was dropped after last winter’s show by RVIA’s board of directors.

“Based upon a few of the questions we heard, there is still confusion as to the continued reference to this being a ‘consumer-facing’ event,” said Baer. “Obviously RVIA’s thought is RVX’s goal is to get information from this event out in front of the consumer through different media outlets, and I understand that. However, I think that is part of the strategy that folks are confused with.”

Piar Adams

The reason Piar Adams, vice president of aftermarket and international sales for Wichita, Kan.-based Airxcel Inc., and Larry Lebryk, Airxcel’s marketing director, made the Utah trip was to “see how RVIA is coming along with whole RVX and how we are going to fit into it, and we are hoping to come away with a clearer sense of the event as a whole and exactly how we’re going to participate within that event.”

Picking up on that sentiment, Lebryk compared RVX to algebra. “In algebra ‘X’ is the unknown, and this of course is the RVX,” Lebryk explained. “So part of the reason we’re here is because it is unknown. We need to see the venue and we need to see the surrounding area so we can know how to plan so that we can support the industry in a reliable way.”

Tim Wegge

Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Chairman Tim Wegge of Burlington RV Superstore in Sturtevant, Wis., attended the Academy on behalf of the RVDA, the nation’s largest dealer group, because “we just want to know exactly what the RVX is going to be about so that we can go back to our dealers and communicate clearly why they should attend.”

A few short hours into the program, we should add, Wegge had a positive report on his mission, noting that he “definitely gained some more insight as far as what the mindset was in their (RVIA) planning and their thought processes in putting this together.”

Said Wegge: “We already had a pretty good idea as to what that was ahead of coming out here. But to be here – to hear a little bit more directly from them as far as what their thoughts were, what they talked about in their planning sessions and then also see the venue and the wonderful city of Salt Lake City and where this is going to take place, I’d say we got a general feel as to what dealers are going to experience when they get here. And we can communicate that back to them.”

Wegge added that he personally was “very excited” at the prospects for RVX, especially with the event’s tie-in to a Go RVing Coalition initiative that will further propel the RV lifestyle to the mainstream consumer. “I think that concept, if done well, will produce wonderful results for everybody,” Wegge said.