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Public Days Begin at PRVCA’s Hershey Show

Hershey Show promo coverThe Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA) comes off its two “Industry Days” with strong expectations as the retail side of its 42nd Annual Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show show unfolds the remainder of the week in Hershey, Pa.

Gorgeous weather bathed the grounds of the Hersheyplex Monday and Tuesday and again today as gates opened at 9 a.m.

Show Chairman Dan Salzgiver, Reichart’s Camping Center, Hanover, Pa., was optimistic on the eve of today’s Public Days opening.

“In general we’re up over 40% in sales of the space. We’re up tremendously in suppliers’ space for this year. The move-in went very smoothly — little if no problems moving in this year. So we’re learning the facility — and the manufactures are learning the move-in process — much better. it’s all a matter of working together with them.”

Several years ago, the show, the largest in the East Coast, was held at the sprawling farm complex in nearby Harrisburg, and was called the Harrisburg Show.

A 40% pickup, he agrees, is yet another sign of the industry digging out of the recession because last year they were down around 49% from their best year ever.

“So now we’re up 40% over the 51% we had  last year so we’re not where we’re going to be (in terms of regenerating the show). I don’t know that we’ll permit the show to get as large as what it was before. That’s up to the show committee. But I know that the dealers and the customers coming in like it the size it is right as this time because they can get around and see everything. We have approximately 1,000 units, 980-some units this year. Last year we had just over 600, so we had a big increase in units and there are more units squeezed into each space.”

Controlling the size instead of perpetually growing the show could be a real plus, contrary to popular thinking, where bigger is always better.

“Getting smaller last year was  a blessing in the sense that our customers coming in — the dealer coming and looking during Industry Days, was able to get around and see everything much easier. We provided golf cart taxis the last several years (in Dealer Days) and folks really like that. On Retail Days (in 2009) I didn’t have a single customer tell me, ‘I didn’t get to see everything this year.’

“In other years, I had them tell me, ‘I couldn’t make up my mind, it’s too big, I couldn’t see everything’ so we look at it as a plus.”

Regarding square footage, the square footage during the best year ever was about 1.5 million square feet. So life here in Hershey continues to return to the new normal.

“Let’s put it this way: last year we (PRVCA) had to dip into our reserves. This year with the increased amount of space we were able to sell, we won’t have to to dip into any reserves this year. We still have to buy the same amount of space from Hershey every year, regardless of the size of our show.”

Curiously, PRVCA spent more money on advertising last year, their worst year in modern times in terms of space sales, and it paid off.

“We had over 34,000 retail customers come through the show last year, which was a record. We’re hoping to do that again this year. And sales last year were very good.”

PRVCA promotes its Public Days to a market stretching from the Mid-Atlantic states (Virginia, New York, Delaware and New Jersey) east to Ohio. This year they’ve shifted more dollars to Internet advertising vs. print, compared to previous years.

“We spent, retailwise, nearly $300,000 advertising the show. We’ve spent a lot of money to bring the people in.”

PRVCA also did a lot of e-mail blasts, both trade and retail, and continued to direct marketing dollars to Canada, because they have a strong Canadian following.

HGTV crews were in Hershey Tuesday and again today gathering footage for its popular series on new RV features. The show will be telecast next spring.

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