Hirsch: Spring was In the Air at RVDA Gathering

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November 25, 2013 by   1 Comment

Jeff Hirsch

Editor’s Note: The following is a column authored by Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association Chairman Jeff Hirsch appearing in RV Executive Today recapping the organization’s RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.

When I returned from this year’s convention, something had changed in New Hampshire – fall was arriving, and our oaks and maples are awash in oranges and yellows. The leaves are drifting to earth, but I’m already anxiously anticipating spring’s rejuvenation.

In a way, everyone who attended the convention was transforming themselves for spring by participating in all of the educational activities. I don’t know where else we can get, in a week’s time, the same type of in-depth training that helps ready us for spring.

While there, I asked attendees about their convention experiences. Although I did get one negative response about a proprietary workshop presenter, all the rest were very positive. Many of you made a point to compliment our keynote speakers, author and talk show host Ross Shafer and KOA CEO Jim Rogers. I, too, felt both had outstanding messages. I’ve given a lot of thought to Rogers’ comments about how dealers should develop closer partnerships with their local KOA campgrounds – talk about a captive audience of potential RV customers. I think with a little effort we could identify synergies for mutual benefit.

I also got a lot of great feedback about the Vendor Training +Plus Program. Thanks to Blue Ox, IDS and Preserve (formerly NCompass) for helping champion this new program. I’d like to share my vision for VTP. Some of you have told me that your managers don’t have the educational or managerial experience to be department heads. In fact, most of us probably have some really good people who just never got the tools necessary to lead others. This is an area in which VTP could play a bigger role. With even greater vendor involvement and support, dealers would be encouraged to bring more employees, and VTP could become one of the best reasons of all to attend the 2014 convention.

I believe our convention would be even more valuable to our expo vendors if they could talk with more of our top-level employees who make buying decisions. VTP will be on the board’s agenda in Louisville, and we’ll be exploring ways to grow it. Based on its fledgling success, I believe we’ll be able to attract more industry stakeholders who’ll want to participate.

And with the exciting news that next year’s convention will move to Bally’s on The Strip, and that the event will take place later in the year (Nov. 9-12), the 2014 convention is already guaranteed to be even better.

Healthy marketplace

In last month’s column, I described the concept of the efficient frontier and how dealers should try to position themselves closer to it. The general idea is to provide more value to the customer at a given cost. What I didn’t discuss is what a healthy marketplace looks like.

In healthy industries, players aren’t attempting to reach the same point along the efficient frontier. They have different models, and each is providing a different cost/value proposition. If too many players adopt the same model and strive for the same position, none provide much added value to the customer, who could choose any of them and be equally served.

However, if customers have the choice between low value at a low cost or high value at a high cost, then there’s real choice – competitors are providing unique value propositions, and it’s up to customers to decide which model they prefer. This differentiation is healthy.

This theory applies to RV dealers and manufacturers alike. A healthy marketplace needs a number of manufacturers providing different cost/value propositions, both high cost/high value and low cost/low value. When manufacturers partner with dealers who have the same business model, then differentiation is maintained and value is provided to the marketplace.

But if manufacturers all adopt the same business model – either by copying each other, through consolidation, or not choosing appropriate dealer partners – then dealers are limited in their own business models. In turn, customers will be limited in their choices, and our industry will be an unhealthy marketplace.

In closing, I was proud to see two dear friends honored during the convention for their many contributions. No one more deserves to receive the James B. Summers award for lifetime achievement than Jim Shields, this year’s recipient. And how fitting to honor former RVDA president Mike Molino, who dedicated his career to education, by renaming the RV Learning Center the Mike Molino RV Learning Center.

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One Response to “Hirsch: Spring was In the Air at RVDA Gathering”

  1. Mark Gerber on November 27th, 2013 10:04 am

    Jeff, I concur with your comments on the need for a healthy marketplace and moving beyond products that are targeted towards the same price point or market position. Riverside Travel Trailer continues to offer products which are unique and appeal to buyers outside those of the big manufactures, and we continue to emphasize that unique can increase sales and margins. Check our website and see that different is available.

    Thank you for sharing your views and please stop by and see us at the Louisville show.

    Mark Gerber