Northeast Florida RV dealers reported a steady stream of visitors during the inaugural fall RV show at the St. Johns County Fairgrounds in Elkton, Fla., last week. According to a press release, the host Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) said the event was a success, attracting more than 2,000 people to the venue over its four-day run, Oct. 10-13.
The event drew many attendees from surrounding St. Johns, Flagler, Putnam and northern Volusia counties. Palm Coast residents Tom Ckee and his wife, Lisa, said they attended the show to get ideas on which type of RV they will buy later.
“We’re retiring in a year or two and we’re going to be buying a motor home,” Tom Ckee said. “This certainly beats traveling all over the place to see everything. It’s nice to have all the different RV types, from all the manufacturers, in one place.”
There were more than 200 new recreational vehicles on display at the fairgrounds, including motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels and tent campers. Peter and Donna Accorti, who live in St. Augustine, were at the show when it opened on Thursday to check out RVs for the very first time.
“It’s a beautiful place to have it, here at the fairgrounds where you can talk one-on-one with the all the salesmen, and there’s a lot less pressure in this type of environment,” Donna Accorti said.
The weather, which threatened to be a problem earlier in the week, cleared up in time for the Thursday opening to the relief of the RV dealers and vendors at the fairgrounds.
“Since it’s a first-time event, we really didn’t know what kind of crowd we were going to draw, but we did well,” said Ocean Grove RV Supercenter General Manager Rob Rothenhausler. “The weather was perfect, which is always good when you have an outdoor event like this.”
Camping World Inc. dealerships in St. Augustine and Jacksonville, which had 64 RVs on display, were positive about the decision to hold the fall event.
“We closed a couple of deals by noon the first day, so we knew it was going to be a good show,” said Camping World RV specialist Robert Houser.
Dick Gore, president of Dick Gore’s RV World, was impressed with the fairgrounds location – and the turnout.
“Everyone involved did their job and we had a great show,” Gore said. “The fairgrounds turned out to be a great facility.”
Gore said that each RV show is unique, and with the ever-changing designs and amenities being developed by manufacturers, there’s always something new to see.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes and it’s still changing as we go along,” he said. “Every year the manufacturers come up with something different. The lightweights have been big and that’s where the industry has been going the last few years.”
Rivers RV General Sales Manager Trevor Bild also said he was excited by the amount of interest the show generated.
“We had some very friendly people come by our display,” Bild said. “There was a lot of traffic and I was surprised that many of them were first-timers who had never been to an RV show before.”
Bild said Rivers RV sold 10 units through the show, which was a good number given it was the dealers’ first fall event in a new venue.
“We had expected more interest in campers and trailers, so we were surprised to sell two motorhomes at the event,” he said. “Next year, we’ll be bringing more motorhomes to display. And the weather couldn’t have been better. I just hope we get the same next year.”
Participating dealers included Camping World RV Sales (Jacksonville), Camping World RV Sales (St. Augustine), Dick Gore’s RV World (Jacksonville), Ocean Grove RV Supercenter (St. Augustine), Rivers RV Sales (Jacksonville) and General RV Center (Orange Park). All the dealers serve the northeast Florida market.
The same dealers plan to take part in the Jacksonville RV Show, scheduled for Feb. 13 – 16 at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.
Brimming with new selling information, market data and innovative merchandising ideas, close to 300 FRVTA members learned about “Taking Care of Business…The RV Way” at the 33rd Annual FRVTA State Convention.
Held at the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach Sept. 5-8, attendees participated in several days worth of intensive schooling combined with a host of events and activities, according to a press release.
“Certainly the RV Industry in general and specifically here in Florida has seen great growth over this past season,” said FRVTA Executive Director Lance Wilson in a press release. “So our members continue to be successful in their businesses, we strive to make sure attendees learn from the best in the RV Industry.”
Featuring a ‘70s theme, this year’s annual convention provided attendees with an in-depth look at national RV trends via a panel stocked with representatives from all sectors of the RV Industry. Each reviewed the successes and strains they experienced as well as what they see their particular industry segment achieving in the coming year.
Besides a national RV industry outlook, members heard from an informative panel of Florida legislators who provided an in-depth update on Florida’s government and how new mandates from Tallahassee affect RV-related businesses in the Sunshine State.
The event opened Thursday evening with the “We Are Family” welcome reception, followed by a gathering at the “I Will Survive” Hospitality Room located along the Gulf of Mexico.
Friday marked the convention’s official opening, led by Wilson who recognized sponsors, first-time attendees and FRVTA staff. The general session was highlighted by the RV Industry Panel, offering members a broad look at the state of the RV industry and associated sectors in Florida. Speakers included:
• Ernie Shumacher, RV executive for Bank of America’s Dealer Financial Services said that he expects interest rates to rise going forward, but that there is still lots of retail money available and at great rates. He believes the RV industry in general is seeing such great wholesale and retail numbers due to so many RVers holding onto their units during the recent economic troubles that they now are feeling more comfortable buying again as the economy improves. He emphasized that dealers should continue to get money down on unit sales. Additionally, Ernie said that dealers are doing a great job moving product and keeping their aging levels low.
• Jeff Hirsh, CEO of Campers Inn and current chairman of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), remarked that he believes dealer anxiety is up due to the changing business model dealers face, marked by “mom and pop” businesses facing competition from national and regional multidealerships with online sales activity. Saying dealers can’t be all things to everyone, he stressed that there is a vast array of opportunity available and dealers should choose their niche and master it.
• Tim Hyland, Recreation/Specialty Vehicles Group president for GE Capital-Commercial Distribution Finance, said all indications point toward continued RV industry growth. He related that dealers should remember the recent past troubles from the Great Recession and work to keep their dealerships healthy. He also warned about rising healthcare costs and regulations in general. Tim revealed that GE’s strategy is to be proactive in dealing with the growing regulation of business, saying they anticipate the process for strategic advantage.
• Jim Musbach, CEO for Coast Distribution Systems Inc. said the Great Recession prompted parts and accessories to become a larger part of a dealership’s business as overall unit sales fell. That’s why he and his business are here to serve the on-time parts delivery needs of RV Dealerships.
• Derald Bontrager, President and CEO of Jayco, Inc., said RV manufacturers are quickly approaching the record shipment levels reached back in 2006. In fact, he believes the RVIA shipment numbers may be on the conservative side. However, there are now far fewer manufacturers than before, meaning larger shipment levels and more business for remaining manufacturers. Derald said RV products are now more affordable than ever with new features and floorplans, all while the average RV buyer age has been trending down thanks to the national Go RVing marketing campaign.
• Pat O’Neill, owner of Camp Gulf in Destin and current Chairman of the Florida/Alabama Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (FLARVC), said dealers should sell the adventure aspect of RVing – the trip, friends, views, overnights – the total RV experience. Pat stressed that attendees should be cautious going forward, watch their numbers, and make sure they have a plan and follow it.
Other highlights included:
• Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia took the stage to reviewed the association’s principles that strive to treat all dealers the same no matter their size. He said RVDA is working hard to keep the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from disrupting the current dealer vehicle lending system. He also reviewed the Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) that was established years ago to foster better relationships between dealers and manufacturers. With the same idea in mind, RVDA also offers a Model Dealer Agreement that reviews a variety of manufacturer–dealer responsibilities and enables dealers to compare against their own manufacturer agreement.
• James Ashurst, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) vice president of public relations and advertising also reviewed the Go RVing program goals, including generating consumer leads for dealers to follow up with. RVIA is seeking to do this by stretching budgeted dollars via co-promotions through four sectors: national and local public relations activities; advertising partnerships; digital outreach; and non-RV specific consumer events. Ashurst reported the Go RVing web page upgraded and redesigned for ease of use.
• The final morning session was the annual Legislative Roundtable discussion moderated by FRVTA General Counsel Marc Dunbar. Participants included Sen. Jack Latvala, from District 16 in Pinellas County and a return speaker from last year; Sen. Greg Evers of District 2 in the Panhandle; and Rep. Jake Raburn of Dist. 57 in Hillsborough County.
On Saturday, breakout sessions offered a variety of seminars selected to appeal to all aspects of the RV Industry.
Featured speakers were: Ryan Marlar, specialist with the Florida Department of Revenue who updated tax law; Jerry Mann of Vantage Benefit Solutions detailed how to prepare for Obamacare; Allen Monello of the Automotive Industry Center for Excellence reviewed dealer compliance issues; Musbach from Coast Distribution spoke on establishing a quality parts department; Tom Walworth from Statistical Surveys Inc. outlined Florida RV Industry trends; and Erick Swinson from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney gave a detailed outlook on economic and financial trends.
The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) held the space drawing for the 2014 Florida RV SuperShow on Aug. 6-8. Held in the office via phone and Internet, manufacturers drew over 17% more space for the 2014 show versus the 2013 show drawing. The “Grandfathered Drawing Order” determined the order in which space was selected.
“We are very excited with the results of the space draw this year,” said FRVTA Executive Director Lance Wilson. “Our manufacturer members continue to show confidence in the SuperShow as a quality selling event. With the amount of space purchased, 2014 should be a banner year for the show and the industry as a whole. We thank our manufacturers for their support not only for the SuperShow but for our Regional shows as well.”
The theme of the 2014 Florida RV SuperShow is “It’s Your Turn!,” emphasizing the fact there will not be a better time to buy an RV as dealers are highly motivated and interest rates may never be this low again. It is also an invitation to discover what so many people have already found out — RVs offer freedom, flexibility and fun not found in any other activity.
Industry Day at the 2014 Florida RV SuperShow will be Jan. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Attendees will be treated to coffee and donuts in the morning and a free lunch. Public Days will run Jan. 15-19.
For more information on the 2014 Florida RV SuperShow or to register for Industry Day, contact FRVTA at 10510 Gibsonton Drive, Riverview, Fla., 33578 or visit www.frvta.org.
For the eighth consecutive year, the RV Learning Center and the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) have renewed their partnership to provide online training for RV dealership personnel through the Distance Learning Network (DLN). The DLN represents a convenient and cost-effective way to provide dealership training.
Dealers taking a yearly subscription to the DLN receive unlimited access to more than 50 training sessions, coursework reviews, and test preparation sections. They’re available anytime throughout the program year and all a dealer needs for access is a high-speed internet connection.
The 2013-14 DLN program includes a broad curriculum designed to improve the performance of most dealership personnel, including:
• RV Technician Certification Preparation Course: More than 40 hours of instruction will help train and prepare RV service technicians for the RVDA-RVIA RV Service Technician Certification test, and completion fulfills recertification requirements.
• Service Writer/Advisor Course: This three-hour program is ideal for both veteran service writer/advisors and new hires. Presented by service writer/advisor veteran Andrea Blackmon, the program helps prepare your personnel for the RV Learning Center’s Service Writer/Advisor Certification test. Completion of the course counts toward recertification requirements.
• Advanced/Manufacturer Specific Training: Features product-specific training from RV manufacturers and suppliers from within the RV industry.
• RV Greeter – Receptionist Course: A 50-minute program that covers: the importance of customer service; the skills and expectations for the RV receptionist; the importance of making the right first impression; communicating on the phone; handling difficult customers; and organizational techniques for the workplace. The program is suitable for all persons needing customer service skills. The program includes a final exam and certificate of completion.
“Because it’s delivered right to your dealership, this is extremely cost effective training and that is important as dealerships will have more employees to train as the economy improves,” said FRVTA Executive Director Lance Wilson. “FRVTA also provides mentor support and encouragement throughout the year, once the dealership is signed up for the program.”
“We’re pleased to renew this partnership, because it offers so much value to dealers. If your dealership needs to kick start a training program quickly, this is the way to go,” said RV Learning Center Chairman Jeff Pastore of Hartville RV Center in Hartville, Ohio. “The DLN training model truly simplifies the training process for dealers and offers unparalleled convenience.”
The only requirement to participate is a high-speed internet connection. A video cable connected to a television is also useful for group training. A one-year subscription to the program costs $995 per dealership location. The subscription term is August 1, 2013 – July, 31, 2014.
During the Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) July 20 board meeting, members approved the Florida RV/Educator Partnership Program, according to the organization’s newsletter.
The goal is to allow RV dealerships to partner with local school districts and colleges to access students in their career and technical (vocational) education programs.
“The program is motivated by the constant calls FRVTA receives asking for help in locating new employees, said FRVTA Training Director Jim Carr. “We will try to access this school-based population one more time and hopefully with good results.”
Carr said there are two major benefits to the program: giving RV dealers the opportunity to form relationships with local schools so they can attract entry-level employees with previous training; and providing local schools a business partner to assist with their career and technical initiatives.
Carr reported that he will be attending in early August the annual conference for the Florida Association of Career and Technical Educators to get the process started.
Other highlights from FRVTA’s board meeting included:
• FRVTA Executive Director Lance Wilson brought the board up to date on preparations for the 2013 Convention to be held at the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach.
Marketing Director Dave Kelly gave a report on the 2014 SuperShow. Booths are over 80% sold at this time and the manufacturers’ draw will be held at the state office Aug. 6-8. Contracts for space are running well ahead of last year.
Other highlights included:
• Carr reported that the Distance Learning Network continues to grow. New Mentor Information Notebooks have been sent out that will serve as an excellent guide. The program will also offer LP Gas classes in Tampa and Lake City in the near future.
• FRVTA General Counsel Marc Dunbar reported on scheduled meetings with DMV to discuss consistency of enforcement of offsite premise permits. During the session, he will also discuss consumer complaints regarding misleading advertising of shows.
• The Scholarship Committee awarded 10 full and one part-time scholarships for the upcoming academic year.
The Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) board, during its July meeting, added 11 new students to the FRVTA Scholarship. According to a press release, the move brings the total number of students on the scholarship program to 26 full-time and three part-time students.
The FRVTA Scholarship began in the fall of 1990 and since that time over 100 students have received an undergraduate degree with the aid of the scholarship. The scholarship pays students $500 per semester or up to $1,000 per year for a total of $4,000 per student. Students must attend an in-state college and must maintain a 3.0 grade point average.
“Every year we get a lot of qualified applicants,” said Nelda Iacono, chairman of the FRVTA Scholarship Committee. “I wish we could give them all scholarships, but I’m real pleased with the applicants we’ve chosen. We base the scholarship not only on academic achievement, but upon financial need and extracurricular activities. I feel this is one of the most important membership benefits our association offers.”
Students currently on the FRVTA Scholarship are Courtney Runte’, Evan Richardson, Ciara Sibbick, Brittani Worden, Ryan Lynch, Cody Cochran, Michael Ryan, Cameron Purton, Charles O’Neil, Benjamin Molay, Courtney Craig, Dalton Dee, Trey Poehlman, Kevin Smith, Alexandra Spitzer, Jessica Williams, Justin Downey-Defretas, Adrienne Gerzeny, April Graham, Irene Medina, Danielle Prunty, Samantha Purton, Marissa Scrofano, Bradley Senderling, Veronica Beltran, Kayley Clay, Lisa Sansbury, Jennifer Postlewaite and Gina Newell.
The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) will be holding its 33rd Annual State Convention at the Sand Pearl Resort on Clearwater Beach, set to run Sept. 5-8.
According to a press release, this year’s convention will feature the “brightest and best minds in the RV industry” to bring FRVTA members up-to-date on the state of the industry and what to expect in the coming months.
The general session will kick off Friday afternoon with an industry panel offering representatives from every segment of the RV industry. Members of the panel will include: Ernie Schumacher from Bank of America (retail lending); a representative from GE Capital (wholesale lending); Jayco Inc. CEO Derald Bontrager (RV manufacturers); FARVC Chairman Pat O’Neill (campgrounds); Bill Leonard of Coast Supply (parts and supplies); and Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVDA) Chairman and Campers Inn owner Jeff Hirsch (RV dealers).
RVDA President Phil Ingrassia and James Ashurst, vice president of public relations and advertising for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), will offer an overall industry update. Rounding out Friday morning’s general session, FRVTA Education Director Jim Carr and General Council Marc Dunbar will update attendees on the RV training program and the recent legislative Session.
Saturday morning the break-out sessions will bring very detailed information to attendees in smaller, more intimate class-room settings. Scheduled sessions include:
• Allen Monello will cover dealer compliance issues.
• Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., will take a look at the industry numbers.
• Bill Leonard of Coast Distribution will show how to make parts departments more profitable.
• A representative from the Department of Revenue will cover state issues.
• Erick Swinson from Morgan, Stanley, Smith, Barney will cover investing and the stock market.
• Jerry Mann from Executive Tax Services will go over implementing the new healthcare legislation.
A host of activities and entertainment are also planned, based on the convention’s theme of “Taking Care of Business…The RV Way.” The 70’s theme will feature the “I Will Survive” Hospitality Room along with the “May The Force Be With You” golf tourney and the “Fantasy Island” boat outing on Friday. That evening the “Boogie Nights” Costume/Dinner Party will feature everything from disco outfits to icons of the 70’s. “Disco Dave” and his “Dy-NO-mite” Game Show is also on tap.
The convention wraps up Saturday evening with the “Saturday Night Fever” awards banquet and silent auction. The silent auction benefits the FRVPC Fund and features such items as weekend getaways, I-pads, E-readers and Disney gift certificates.
FRVTA still has a few sponsorship opportunities and is also taking prize donations for the silent auction and the game show luncheon. For more information or to make a donation, contact the Florida RV Trade Association at (813) 741-0488.
Region One of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) is returning for its 18th annual recreational vehicle show at the Lee County Sports Complex/Hammond Stadium in south Fort Myers April 19-21.
According to a press release, the three-day-event will feature 11 dealers from throughout Florida’s Gulf Coast displaying a wide selection of new, used and leftover recreation vehicles of all styles, brands and price ranges. A variety of RV suppliers also will be on hand to provide information on where to camp as well as various other services to make the great outdoors accessible. Financing for well-qualified buyers will also be available.
“This event is held just before the summer traveling season, so consumers can make their plans to see our great nation,” said Dan Wylie, president of FRVTA’s Region One. “Dealers also need to reduce their inventory from the busy winter season, so prices for new and used RVs have been reduced as well.”
Financing for both dealer inventory and qualified buyers has improved, resulting in a market that has seen RV sales markedly recover for both new and used merchandise.
“Statistics continue to show that an RV vacation is much less expensive than other vacation travel options, even when a purchase is factored in,” Wylie explained, “Despite recent fuel cost increases, an RV vacation is still a bargain.”
Furthermore, Wylie stressed that RVs are versatile vehicles perfect not only for camping, but for exploring, tailgating and weekend excursions. “You can bring your entire family together, even the dog, by taking them away,” he said.
The admission-free recreation vehicle show is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. all three days. For more information visit www.FRVTA.org/rv-shows.
The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) just completed its sixth regional show at venues throughout the state and reported that attendance numbers have been strong, according to a press release.
A roundup of show results includes:
• The Fort Myers RV Show, celebrating its 28th year, featured 17 dealers from all along the Gulf Coast along with well over 100 vendors. Show Chairman Chris Morse reported that attendance increased about 1,000 over the the 12,300 patrons last year while dealers and vendors registered steady sales. Morse noted that the event also generated followup sales for dealers.
• The Ocala RV Show held the last week in January showcased 13 dealers and the supplier’s tent included representatives from campgrounds and resorts along with a parts and accessories store. Great weather the entire weekend brought in just under 5,000 people over the four days of the show. “This was the second year at the new location adjacent to the Super Flea Market, which gives us great visibility from I-75,” said FRVTA Marketing Director Dave Kelly. “It’s easier to get to and we are closer to town than the old location. I know the dealers like being closer to town and it appears the public does, too.”
• The 7th Annual Spring Clean-Out RV Show was held the second weekend in February and featured seven RV dealers and six vendors at Germain Arena, which fronts I-75. Held in conjunction with an annual home and garden show, the event attracted over 3,300 attendees despite a cold, rainy start. “We hold this show to reach down into the Naples market where there are lots of RV resorts, but no RV dealers,” said Region 1 President Dan Wylie. “From what I could tell, every dealer did well, moving both new and used products.”
• The Jacksonville RV Show returned for the fourth year to the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. Six participating RV dealers showcased product and the supplier’s area was setup so that the public came in and out right past the booths. Great weather again brought in a record crowd of over 7,300 people. “We renewed the promotion from last year’s show to get visitors to go to every dealer and have a card stamped that made them eligible for a drawing every day for a gas card,” said Region 6 President Tom Tibbitts. “This not only got people to visit every dealer, it also gave every dealer the chance to interact with every visitor.”
• The Central Florida RV Show was held at the Volusia County Fairgrounds in DeLand the last weekend of February. Seven RV dealers reported “good to great” sales from the close to 4,000 people that attended. “We dropped the admission price a couple of bucks to try and get a bigger crowd, and we were up about 400 people over last year’s show,” said Ken Prentiss, Region 4 president. “We will continue to look at ways to increase attendance and bring more buyers to this event next year.”
• The last winter regional show was held March 7-10 in West Palm Beach. Held in the parking lot of the South Florida Fairgrounds, and included nine dealers and 10 booth exhibitors. Drawing over 3,400 people, dealers enjoyed strong traffic, including Keith Waits from Palm Beach RV who reported selling both new and used units.
Still to be held is the 18th Annual RV SuperSaver Show in Fort Myers. Show Manager Jack Carver expects to have about 11 dealers and 10 exhibitors in this annual event that is aimed at local residents. “Depending on the weather, this show usually delivers about 3,500 people over three days,” he explained. “It’s the perfect time for our dealers to reach out to local residents as they prepare for the summer travel season.”
Kelly noted, “The bottom line coming out of the Florida winter/spring RV show season is that the attitudes of consumers are vastly more positive and the fact that most shows were either at or close to last year’s attendance means the interest in RV products is still strong and getting stronger.”
For more information contact the FRVTA at (813) 741-0488 or www.frvta.org.
Organizers for the 28th Annual Fort Myers RV Show, held Jan. 24-27 at the Lee Civic Center, reported the event drew over 12,300 patrons while generating sales for dealer and vendor participants. According to a press release, the show was sponsored by Region 1 of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA).
“Everyone I spoke with at the show was generally pleased with the buying interest the public had,” said FRVTA Region 1 President Dan Wylie of Dream RV. “In fact, we had several dealers who achieved double-digit sales. All dealers came away with many sales leads they can now follow up over the coming weeks.”
While no attendance records were set, Show Manager Jack Carver said he was gratified the public responded so positively, especially following the economic turmoil the industry has suffered over the previous years. “We worked hard to put on a quality event that created a buying situation for all participants,” he said. “I’m very thankful the show was successful.”
This year’s annual event featured 17 dealers displaying well over 600 new RV units of all types, styles and price ranges. The show also staged 85 vendors selling everything from resort lots, insurance and permanent roof coatings to repair services and other enhancements for the RV lifestyle.
“Everyone seemed to be selling whatever they brought,” said Show Chairman Chris Morse of Skip Eppers RVs. “I’m still busy with traffic and additional sales a week after the show.”
Wylie added, “We are proud to offer dealers, vendors and patrons the best the RV Industry has to offer and look forward to helping spread consumer interest in the RV lifestyle.”