A Saturday (Feb. 21) snowfall that dumped more than seven inches of snow on central Ohio – breaking a 122-year-old record for the day – caused a noticeable drop in attendance at the Feb. 20-22 Columbus RV Show at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
The storm prompted local authorities to issue a Level 2 snow emergency, which in Ohio means motorists are advised not to travel due to hazardous road conditions. Organizers don’t release attendance figures, but acknowledged it was obvious attendance was down.
“You can spend a lot of money and you can do all the right things, but at the end of the day you cannot control the weather,” said Rob Lynch of Fairfield, Ohio-based Odyssey Management Services Inc. Lynch, whose grandfather founded the consumer show management company, has been managing and promoting consumer shows for 30 years, including seven RV shows this year.
Lynch added that the silver lining to a winter storm is the consumers who make the effort to get to the show are generally pretty serious about buying. Higher attendance figures don’t always translate into more sales, he said.
“It’s a Catch 22: We want the gate, but we also want the sales. I talked to all the dealers, and they all said they had good sales at the show,” Lynch said, who was busy preparing for the Kentucky RV Show & Liquidation Sale, Feb. 27-March 1 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington.
The Columbus RV Show returned after a one-year hiatus, and moved from the Ohio Expo Center at the state fairgrounds to the Greater Columbus Convention Center. It was the first time the venue hosted an RV show, and it garnered strong reviews from exhibitors.
Dealers displayed about 200 units in 120,000 square feet, and “there’s room to grow,” Lynch said, as a renovation increased the center’s capacity to 400,000 square feet. The goal, Lynch said, is to fill the venue to its maximum, which would supplant the Ohio RV Supershow in Cleveland as the biggest consumer show in Ohio.
The venue was a definite plus, agreed Bryan Stoney, president of Stoney’s RV, a family-owned dealership retailing a wide variety of travel trailers along with horse and cargo trailers in Cambridge, Ohio.
The dealership, which is located about 85 miles east of Columbus, brought 12 units to the show. Stoney said most people seemed interested in bunkhouses and stick-and-tin trailers, which is about normal for the spring RV show in Columbus.
“We think Columbus would have been a home run if not for the weather,” he pointed out.
Stoney said all indications are the dealership will have a good year. An earlier Columbus RV show, combined with an on-site open house and several events at area shopping malls, has Stoney optimistic for 2015.
“We’ve been happy with the response thus far,” he said
Mike Harlan, general manager of Haydocy Airstream & RV in Columbus, agreed that the weather kept the lookers at home, but brought out the buyers.
“I wouldn’t say that Saturday was a washout,” Harlan said. “The people who did come were very qualified buyers and we had good traffic. We did about two or three [email protected], and also sold two Airstreams and two Gulf Streams. The difference is the buyers on Saturday were placing orders, and the buyers on Sunday were buying what we had.”
Add Harlan to the list of people who were complimentary of the new venue, especially the lighting which made the RVs look “spectacular,” he said.
Tim Maxwell, who’s been with Airstream Inc. for 28 years, reported that customers were upbeat in Ohio.
“I’ve got to tell you, the Columbus show was the same as it’s been at all the shows this year. Consumer confidence is up and everybody is out looking for RVs,” Maxwell said, adding that most questions for him are the availability of Airstreams. “Right now, we’re filling orders now in April or May.”
Other Ohio dealers at the show included Colerain RV in Columbus; Jason Hatfield RV in Sunbury; Toms Toys RV in Springfield and Port Clinton; and Tom Raper RVs in Columbus, Cincinnati and Richmond, Ind. It was announced in January that Camping World Inc. was set to acquire Tom Raper RVs, founded by Tom Raper in 1964.