Another National RV Trade Show has concluded, and I must say it turned out much better than I anticipated.
For months leading up to the annual pilgrimage to Louisville, Ky., I spoke with hundreds of people who were all worried about the fate of this year’s show. They were concerned there weren’t enough manufacturers and suppliers slated to participate to make the event worthwhile for RV dealers to attend. And dealers are the lifeblood of the show.
Yet, the dealers came. And, at last count, were only 1.9 percent below last year’s level.
The show itself was significantly smaller in size, but my feet were greatly appreciative of the condensed space. In years past, the show was 1.25 miles from one end to the other. This year, you could walk the entire perimeter in 10 minutes .
As usual, the staff at the RV industry Association did another bang-up job coordinating the event, putting out fires and keeping everyone happy. Although I heard some grumbling about how the preprinted nametags shipped to early registrants could not be scanned by the exhibitor’s barcode readers.
There was a marked improvement in attitude this week. Everyone was excited and greatly relieved that the worse of the Great Recession appeared to be over. Every manufacturer I had the opportunity to talk to was giddy over the fact dealers could get financing to place orders at the show.
Several predicted that RV industry prognosticator Dr. Richard Curtin will be revising his forecasts for next year. One manufacturer said next year’s shipments will take every bit of Curtin’s predicted 27 percent increase, and then some. One OEM outlined a very rational reason as to why motorhome shipments are likely to see a 50 percent increase next year. Look for more on that in the days ahead.
There was guarded enthusiasm for the new round of Go RVing ads featuring animated talking animals. Some folks thought they were cute and would be a hit with families. Others thought they lacked the emotional oomph of the last round of wildly popular commercials. The RVIA staff assures me that I’ll receive copies of the commercials within a few weeks. We’ll post links to them in this blog and ask industry professionals and RV owners alike to weigh in with their assessments.
There were many missing faces at this year’s show, a testimony to the industry’s recession casualties. But, there were enough familiar faces to offer reassurance to a skeptical editor and an uncertain industry that, just like each preceding recession, we’ll bounce out of this one, too.
All-in-all, this year’s show was one of the better ones I have attended in recent years. The industry isn’t out of the woods yet, but we can sure smell the coffee brewing at the campground’s fire pit.