Forest River Open House Signups Ahead of ’10
Attendance is looking strong for Elkhart County’s 4th Annual Open House Week, Sept. 19-23 in northern Indiana’s RV-building center, according to Forest River Inc. President and CEO Pete Liegl, who expects his own Elkhart, Ind., company to exceed last year’s estimated total attendance of approximately 3,000 dealer personnel.
Forest River’s signups as of late this week (Sept. 2) were approaching 2,500 for Open House Week, a relatively new industry phenomenon hosted by manufacturers in various locations in and around the city of Elkhart, Ind. (See the RVBusiness Open House Week map posted on the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com homepage, which details all of the announced locations at which RV builders will be hosting dealer personnel. This map will be updated should any other manufacturers or suppliers announce their participation in Open House Week.)
“We’re ahead of last year; I’ll tell you that,” says Liegl. “Now I don’t have the exact numbers right here in front of me, but people in our offices track it every week leading up to the Open House, and, as of today, the numbers are considerably bigger. We were right about 3,000 last year, and I know we’re going to beat that.”
Although a lot of people in the industry today might not realize it, Open House Week actually incorporates elements of older fall industry trade events that were once part of the industry’s traditional trade show cycle, including private manufacturer open houses and the old South Bend Show.
Today’s Open House Week, much like the defunct South Bend Show held for years around the University of Notre Dame’s football stadium, benefits from a drive to provide a cost-effective venue for both exhibitors and attendees that is reflective of relatively austere economic times.
Asked what effect the general economic trends might have on this year’s Open House Week, Liegl was quick to point out that the first Open House in 2008 was spawned amid a lot more dire economic circumstances than today’s. On the contrary, Liegl thinks all this talk of a double-dip recession might actually help the Open House Week.
“I don’t think it will hurt it at all,” said Liegl, who appears as an unofficial open house co-host on the cover of the latest (September/October) issue of RVBusiness magazine with one of his chief competitors, Peter Orthwein, chairman and CEO of Jackson Center, Ohio-based Thor Industries Inc.
“In fact, I think it (the economy) will actually help it,” he added. “Let’s say we do get our double dip recession. It’s all the more important that dealers are with the right manufacturer, OK? So, they have to do their due diligence to make sure they are with the right manufacturer. And that’s something we can help them do here at the Open House.”