As the industry looks toward the fall and winter trade show season, RV manufacturers and association-based show promoters are decidedly upbeat regarding the prospects for the industry’s trade-related events – thanks in large part to a resilient marketplace in which retail inventories still seem to be in order and new buyers are apparently still finding their way on to dealers’ lots.
A rundown of this year’s fall/winter national trade-related events includes the following shows:
• PRVCA’s America’s Largest RV Show, Sept. 14-20 in Hershey, Pa.
• The 8th Annual Elkhart RV Open House, Sept. 22-24 in and around Elkhart County, Ind.
• RVDA’s 2015 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, Nov. 3-6 at Bally’s in Las Vegas
• ARVC’s Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo, Nov. 3-6 in Daytona Beach
• RVIA’s 53nd Annual National RV Trade Show, Dec. 1-3 in Louisville
America’s Largest RV Show — also known as the “Hershey Show” – opens with a trade day but is largely known as a consumer event that is expected to cover more than one million net square feet of exhibit space and to break records for consumer attendance.
The buzz regarding the trade-only Elkhart Open House, by the same token, is universally positive as market-share leaders Forest River Inc. and Thor Industries Inc. prepare to serve up 2016 product and medium-rare steaks to thousands of dealer personnel at their respective posts on Elkhart’s northeast side.
“Same as last year,” reports Forest River CEO Pete Liegl, whose company will again stage all of its divisions with virtually hundreds of new units in and around its Dynamax plant on Elkhart’s County Road 6. The Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary will also continue the tradition it started in 2008 by hosting the industry’s most well-attended evening social agenda. “We’ll be mixing it up a little as far as the bands and the food, but, basically, the same thing,” Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com. “We want people to come, drink, eat, dance and be merry — and order.”
Same goes for Thor’s 12 divisions, which are also anticipating a strong showing for this year’s Open House, according to Thor President and CEO Bob Martin.
“For this year’s Open House, we’re looking at even bigger and better things,” said Martin of prospects for Thor, whose divisional displays will again be stationed around a huge tent on the grounds of the RV/MH Hall of Fame. “Our space is a little bit larger not only with the addition of KZ from last year, but with (recently acquired) Cruiser RV and DRV joining the space. So, we’ll have upwards of 600 coaches as we plan the show, and we’re really looking for bigger and better attendance. We’re seeing dealer pre-registrations already up quite a bit. Hotel rooms are hard to get already, and we’ll probably start looking outside the area next. It’s looking very positive.”
In Colorado, National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) President and CEO Paul Bambei is anticipating that a “fantastic” U.S. camping season – with the exception of a few places like drought-stricken Southern California – will translate into a successful Daytona show. “I think the location and the fact that most campgrounds have had very good years would be leading indicators that, yes, we’re going to have very good (show) registration,” said Bambei.
And while it’s too early to forecast much about this year’s National RV Trade Show slated for early December in the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, manufacturer space for this year’s nearly 900,000-square-foot Louisville Show is already sold out, reports James Ashurst, vice president of communications and marketing for RVIA.
Meanwhile, prospects for 2015’s RVDA Con/Expo are looking good as well, with registrations currently ahead of last year amid a robust business environment.
“Very good,” reports RVDA President Phil Ingrassia, whose resurgent Con/Expo drew 1,242 industry attendees last year. “We just partnered with Baird (Robert W. Baird & Co.) again on a quarterly dealer survey, and dealer sentiment was very strong. The towable sector continues to perform very well and we just saw the strong June motorized numbers, so things seem to be percolating right along. The retail demand is there and it doesn’t look like there’s a big inventory buildup. Almost two-thirds of dealers were comfortable with their inventories.”
Ingrassia, for his part, said there’s a number of factors behind the Con/Expo’s recent turnaround, including beefed up instructional offerings and a viable supplier exposition. “I think the Top 50 (the RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards) had a lot to do with that as well – to have a restart on the convention and bring new programs that have evolved as the industry has evolved. The volunteer leaders have their ears to the ground and are working real hard to make sure that they’re delivering the kind of education and other events that dealers need today.”