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By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
Yesterday, the RV Industry Association (RVIA) released the names of people tasked with reviewing “how changes to the timing and location of RVX can increase participation and unity across all segments of the RV industry.”
The story showed that the task force members consist of eight RV manufacturers and four RV suppliers.
Who’s missing? Obviously “unity” has already excluded a key segment of the industry.
At the opening event for this year’s show, RVIA President Frank Huglemeyer said, “RVX isn’t just another trade show renamed. It’s an integrated, multi-purpose marketing platform designed to showcase the future of RVing, generate greater consumer interest and drive dealer sales.”
We repeatedly heard that RVX was a dealer-centric event. Dealers were to be given a special “toolbox” for just showing up. Dealers were going to have the first crack at ordering new models to sell at the start of the camping season. Dealers could be present in person as the industry’s best RVs were presented to the world at The Reveal. A full line-up of dealer training was planned.
Yet, according to RVIA, only 809 dealers showed up. That’s out of a total attendance of 4,104.
The audited number was originally reported as “over 800.” It must have been the Hymer auditors doing the counting. The auditors got to the magic number of 800 and said, “Ahhh, that’s close enough.”
If there were 800 RV dealers roaming that convention, they were all wearing Harry Potter invisibility cloaks. Perhaps the dealers thought they would get special treatment by wearing supplier badges instead.
A 65 percent drop in participation
But, how does the 2019 attendance figure compare to previous national trade shows?
In 2016, RV Daily Report noted that 7,674 people attending the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. The year before, 7,725 people attended the show.
During my absence, RV Daily Report did not publish the audited attendance report following the 2017 show.
Still, in 2016, there were 2,290 RV dealers in attendance. In 2015, 2,454 dealers participated in that show.
Even with the anonymous “auditors” determining that 809 dealers took time to travel to Salt Lake City, this year’s RVX event saw a 65% decline in dealer participation.
How did the industry respond?
By forming a task force completely void of RV dealers to determine why dealers didn’t show up for this year’s event in order to rectify that problem for the next show.
Wouldn’t you think if an event was hemorrhaging dealer attendees that, perhaps, the organization might want to include a few dealers on its event planning task force? At the very least, shouldn’t a representative or two of genuine dealer-centric organizations be invited to join the discussion?
Is it a trade show or frat party?
Before cancelling the 2020 RVX weeks after this year’s event ended, RVIA announced it had selected San Antonio to host next year’s kickoff to the camping season.
“The show team traveled to about nine cities last year and chose San Antonio because of the campus feel the city has,” the press release noted.
The group visited somewhere in the neighborhood of nine cities. It could have been eight or maybe 11. Nine prospects was close enough. Even though a team of people traveled to each city, nobody really knows for sure how many cities were visited.
However, San Antonio was selected because it has a “campus” feel. Wonderful, if that is what it takes to attract dealers to an RV show.
If the industry is going to plan a major trade show targeting RV dealers, but not include any dealers in the planning process, then RVIA would be millions of dollars better off by tapping a couple of kegs and playing Animal House on the big screen to make the event a true campus experience.
Here’s another reality check.
Despite a record number of journalists and social media “influencers” attending the Salt Lake City event — and RVIA declaring that it resulted in 400 million “earned media impressions,” a simple Google search for “RVX show” yields dismal results.
Try it yourself by clicking here.
Outside of the multiple links to the RVIA and RVX websites, and ignoring the plethora of links to industry publications and industry websites, do you see any real indication there was a groundswell of 400 million earned media impressions?
Granted, Google may know that I am interested in the event based on past industry searches. So, try it yourself at www.startpage.com. Are the results different?
Who is the RVX customer?
When the newly-formed task force convenes in a few weeks in Washington, D.C., the first order of business might need to be a review of the leadership overseeing all event planning.
Because, regardless of the number of high-priced consultants, marketing experts and public relations professionals hired to promote the dealer-centric event to RV dealers, if dealers are not involved in the planning process from Day 1, then we’ll still be singing the same sad tune a few weeks after the next event.
And the manufacturers and suppliers who planned the event, funded the displays and staffed the exhibits will still be scratching their heads wondering why more dealers weren’t impressed by all the buzz.
“If we embrace new ways to build, market and service our products, if we support our customers at every turn, if we innovate, excite and attract new consumers to our diverse outdoor lifestyles, the future of the RV industry remains bright,” we were told at RVX.
There is a lot of “ifs” in that statement.
So, who is the customer? Is it dealers? Is it consumers?
Whoever it is better be given seats of honor on the planning committee.