Go RVing will have an interactive exhibit featuring Airstream and Livin’ Lite travel trailers at the Country Living Fair taking place in Atlanta’s Stone Mountain Park Oct. 25-27.
According to a press release, this will be the third Country Living Fair where Go RVing has had a display that offers attendees the unique opportunity to tour an RV and learn more about RVing. The previous events in Columbus, Ohio, in September, also featuring Airstream and Livin’ Lite products, and in Rhinebeck, N.Y. in June, featuring a Jayco Jay Flight travel trailer, proved to be very successful. In total, about 15,000 fair attendees are expected to have toured the RVs by the close of the Atlanta event.
Displaying RVs at consumer events was a newly introduced element to the Go RVing program this year. In addition to the Country Living Fair events, Go RVing also partnered with Garden and Gun magazine to have an exhibit at the southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) in Charleston, S.C., in early February. More than 2,000 people toured a Winnebago Aspect type C motorhome and a Forest River V-Cross Vibe travel trailer that were displayed.
Meanwhile, the Sports Illustrated ”On Campus Tailgate Tour” presented by Go RVing concluded this weekend at the Texas A&M–Auburn game in College Station, Texas. Featuring a Winnebago Adventurer Class A motorhome and a Keystone RV travel trailer as the centerpieces, the tour was a high-impact, on-site consumer event that showcased RVs as ideal tailgate vehicles. Twenty-five thousand consumers attended the tailgates with 3,400 people touring the RVs over the course of the tour’s six stops at college football games from August – October.
“We are very pleased with the strong consumer interest in RVing demonstrated at these events,” said RVIA Vice President of Public Relations and Advertising James Ashurst. “These on-site displays bring the RV to life and allow us to reach our target audiences in a special, memorable way. Families are able to see and experience first-hand how an RV can provide a fun, flexible and affordable way for them to spend time together.”
Each of these consumer engagement programs were part of Go RVing advertising buys with the popular consumer magazines. The units displayed at the events were chosen in a lottery.
Bob Wheeler, Airstream Inc. president and CEO, has been selected to serve as co-chairman of the Go RVing Coalition, the RV industry’s national advertising and market expansion initiative. According to a press release, Wheeler joins RV dealer Tom Stinnett of Tom Stinnett Derby City RV as co-chair of the industrywide coalition, replacing Bob Olson, who retired from Winnebago Industries Inc. in 2012.
The officers of Go RVing, Inc. – Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon and Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia – released a joint statement praising Wheeler as an excellent choice to serve as co-chairman: “Bob is a proven industry leader who understands the importance of branding and strategic promotion. He brings valuable experience, insight and influence to the Go RVing Coalition, and partnered with Tom, they will make a strong team to help guide Go RVing forward as we seek to build on the growth of the past few years.”
Wheeler, 46, began his professional career as a manufacturing engineer at General Motors Co. He became president and CEO of Airstream in 2005 after serving in several other positions with Thor Industries Inc., Airstream’s parent company.
“The Go RVing program plays a vital role in our industry’s effort to raise consumer awareness about the benefits of RVing and the RV lifestyle,” said Wheeler. “I’m honored to work with the talented members of the Go RVing Coalition, who have for years helped position RVs as a fun and affordable way to build lasting memories. As we look to furthering industry growth and expansion, I’m excited to be part of the team’s move towards more creative, impactful and innovative campaign executions.”
Stinnett, who has been involved in Go RVing since it began in 1994 and has served as a co-chair since 2004, will continue to play a leadership role as a key consensus-builder among dealers and manufacturers. “With his experience with Thor and Airstream, and his passion for the RV lifestyle, Bob Wheeler will be a great addition as Go RVing co-chair,” Stinnett said. “I look forward to working with him as the 2013 ad campaign gets underway.”
Wheeler is a resident of Sidney, Ohio, where he lives with his wife, Kelly, and their three boys, Grant, Harvey and Finn.
The Go RVing campaign is widely credited for boosting the image and popularity of RV travel and helping to maintain RV awareness and demand through the recent economic downturn. The Go RVing Coalition consists of RV manufacturers, component suppliers, dealers and campgrounds that work to provide the public and media with information about the benefits of RV travel and to foster satisfaction with the RV experience through its Committee on Excellence. For more information, visit www.GoRVing.com.
The Go RVing Coalition has voted unanimously to move forward with production of an all-new, integrated television, print and digital campaign with the theme, “Away.”
The new campaign, developed by The Richards Group with the assistance of a creative work group of 16 coalition representatives from all segments of the industry and Canada, represents a strategy shift back to the emotion-driven, family focus of past campaigns, with a continued underlying emphasis on the affordability and flexibility of RV travel and camping.
A Harris Interactive communications planning study was conducted by Go RVing in 2010 to guide the development of the new creative.
“ ‘Away’ is more than a word,” said Creative Group Head Glenn Dady, presenting the campaign concepts to the coalition on April 19. “It can be a place, an experience or a means to pursue your passions on your own timetable and budget. ‘Away’ is a highly personal concept which will resonate in different ways across our entire target audience.”
A total of three TV spots and four print ads will be produced this summer, based on the rough layouts and scripts the coalition reviewed. Between now and the coalition’s next meeting on June 6 during RVIA’s Committee Week, the agency and staff will refine plans for RV types, review locations and select activities to be depicted in the ads. Ethnically diverse family members spanning several generations will be featured enjoying a variety of outdoor activities together in beautiful, accessible natural settings, including RV campground scenes.
RVs to be featured in each ad will be chosen by lottery.
New digital technology will play a major role in the campaign – including the creation of a new mobile version of GoRVing.com. As the number of consumers utilizing smartphones grows exponentially, the new print ads will feature a QR (quick response) barcode that allows consumers to instantly obtain information, including dealer and campground locations and streaming how-to videos.
The look and feel of GoRVing.com will be updated to reflect the new “Away” campaign theme, and new interactive features will allow visitors to create and share their own video/ photo journal of family RV getaways.
“These digital features are designed to drive new and repeat traffic to GoRVing.com, while increasing awareness among consumers of the flexibility that RVs provide.” said James Ashurst, RVIA vice president of public relations and advertising. “The online elements will help increase engagement with consumers in fun, interactive ways that can be shared virally across many popular social media platforms.”
“The number one goal of Go RVing should be selling the dream,” said coalition member Debbie Brunoforte of Little Dealer, Little Prices, Mesa, Arizona. “These ads do the job.”
The RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, scheduled for Oct. 4-8 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., comes at a crucial time for the U.S. economy in general and the RV industry in particular as both work their way out of the tough recession of 2008/2009.
On one hand, the industry’s rebound has exceeded expectations in many ways, especially for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers aligned with the right towable recreational vehicle brands. On the other hand, however, the aftershocks of the Great Recession are obviously still with us in terms of unemployment, stock market fluctuations and a general discomfort among many Americans with regard to the general state of the economy.
And while most Americans assume that the worst is over, many of the nation’s durable good manufacturers – including RV builders — are still looking to bridge their way to the next year and the next level of recovery and to find a comfort zone in this new post-recessionary age.
“There is a consensus we have to recalibrate our definition of what is a good business environment,” said Mike Molino, president of the Fairfax, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), lead sponsor of October’s annual Con/Expo. “We’re not going to get back to the 400,000-unit years any time soon. We’ll probably never return to that. The next couple of years will be tough, but doable. If dealers stay within the cash structure they have, they will survive. The consumer will come back — slowly. We won’t see a significant increase (in sales) until there is more certainty (about the state of the economy). I’m not so sure the election of 2010 will bring more certainty. That might just bring more confusion.”
But Molino, generally a realist, does tend to see the cup half full.
“The dealers who are still in business, for the most part, are the ones who will survive,” he maintained. “The dealers coming to the convention are in good shape. The shakeout is well on its way to being complete. But it’s not totally over. Dealers are telling me they have inventory but are paying more finance charges on the inventory they have than they used to, and retail financiers are very stringent on who they are lending money to, so the ability to buy a recreational vehicle, the threshold for buying, is higher and the ability to buy is a lot lower.
“Another dynamic is that there is uncertainty among businesses, both large and small, and that drives employment, and employment drives the mentality of the economy,” Molino continued. “When a consumer is hearing levels of unemployment we currently have (around 10%), it’s still not conducive to them going out and buying an RV, even if they can afford to get a loan for an RV. Until unemployment goes down and employment rises, we will have some issues.”
A New Era for the Industry As Well as RVDA’s Con/Expo
The RVDA is tackling this new era head-on with a refreshing revision of the annual convention, which is co-sponsored by RVDA of Canada and the RV Learning Center.
A crowd of between 475 and 550 U.S. and Canadian dealers, with total registrations of about 1,100 attendees, is anticipated for the five-day event.
“I think it’s going to be the best convention ever,” adds Molino. “We’ve got a very, very active committee under (Convention Chairman) Peter Albano. Between him and my staff and the volunteers on the committee, I think they have put together the most pertinent program for dealers and the management level of staff I’ve ever seen.”
As ever, of course, there will be an aggressive educational component including workshops on everything from wholesale and retail financing options to new inventory management strategies and how to reach new customers through innovative marketing communications. And the 2010 convention will again feature an exhibit hall filled with the RV industry’s leading OEM and supplier companies offering products and services to help dealers improve profitability.
But attendees will notice significant changes, starting with the brand committee meetings, closed door sessions in which dealers meet as a group with representatives of the recreational vehicle brands they carry. RVDA’s “Partners in Progress” brand committees, among other things, will work on important dealer-manufacturer issues and address results of RVDA’s Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI).
“We’ve restructured the brand committees meetings, so they come early in the session,” Molino explained. “We tried to make it so there is no conflict between the committee meetings and anything else they want to do. I think it will enhance the experience for the dealers, especially the manufacturers.”
Before he took on the assignment of chairing this year’s convention committee, Albano confides, he talked with many dealers and asked them what they wanted with regard to the convention. “They said that we need to change and get some new blood into the system and see how we’re running the sessions, break it up and make it new,” Albano, owner of American RV in the Memphis suburb of Olive Branch, Miss., told RVBusiness. “We’ve worked very, very hard at doing that.”
Former Interior Secretary Kempthorne Will Keynote
Albano predicts that convention attendees will especially enjoy the remarks of former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who will serve as keynote speaker at the first general session on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
“Secretary Kempthorne has a track record of developing innovative approaches to meet the outdoor recreation needs of RV travelers and other outdoor enthusiasts,” Albano said. “As a long-time motorhome owner, he is enthusiastic about the future prospects for our industry. He will provide an inspiring message for everyone who makes their living in the RV business.”
Kempthorne continues to champion outdoor recreation and is an active RV traveler and motorcyclist. As Secretary of the Interior during the George W. Bush administration, he brought fundamental relational changes in the environmental, conservation and outdoor recreation arenas.
During his service in the U.S. Senate, Kempthorne led successful efforts to create a sustainable funding source for building and maintaining trails and to promote balance between resource protection and outdoor fun – which is among the reasons he received the 20th Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award in 2008 from the American Recreation Coalition (ARC).
A second general session, on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, will feature an “RV Outlook Panel Discussion” for which panelists will include Ron Fenech, president of Thor Industries Inc.’s RV Group; Craig Kennison, analyst with Robert W. Baird, Inc.; and Pete Lannon, GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance.
Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., will chair the discussion, which will focus on minimizing risk factors with RV floorplan loans, a manufacturing outlook on the future of RV product development and distribution, financial markets and the impact the issues will have on the dealers’ bottom lines.
“This session is sure to be extremely informative for everyone attending the upcoming convention,” said Albano. “It will provide some important steps that dealers can take to reduce their risk and successfully meet the financial challenges we are all facing today. The Convention/Expo Committee secured an outstanding group of RV industry experts to participate in this event.
RVBusiness HostsTop 50 Dealer Awards Festivities
RVBusiness magazine (and RVBUSINESS.com) will host its 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards during a Wednesday, Oct. 6, reception and dinner at the Rio hosted by Affinity Group Inc. President & CEO Mike Schneider and keynoted by conservative political commentator and author Ann Coulter.
While the award eligibility has been expanded this year to include recreational park model dealers – just as it was expanded last year to include Canadian retailers — the awards format will include five Blue Ribbon retailers and one individual receiving the Altman Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Go RVing Coalition Convenes at Con/Expo
Concurrent with RVDA’s convention agenda, the pan-industry Go RVing Coalition will convene 8-11 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 6, in the Rio’s Tango Room to continue discussions of topics raised during the coalition’s last meeting June 8 during RVIA Committee Week in South Bend, Ind. This will likely include campaign planning, 2011 funding levels and development of the Go RVing consumer leads prioritization system approved by the coalition in June.
Along with recent shipment and retail data, the coalition will rely on a new University of Michigan RV market forecast and new ad tracking research. “Go RVing’s 2010 ad tracking research will be complete, giving us a better handle on the impact of our media mix and the Ambassadors of Affordability creative,” reports Gary LaBella, vice president and chief marketing officer for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the coalition’s staff liaison.
Additionally, LaBella says results of the new study of Go RVing leads over the past three years will be reported by The Richards Group, the coalition’s Dallas-based agency. “This study will enable us to better prioritize leads, to provide more information to users about the specific products and price ranges consumer are considering, the lifestyle attributes of our leads and which media are most effective in delivering them,” he said. “All of this information will be helpful to future Go RVing media and creative planning as well as industry marketing efforts.”
In what amounts to a gradual return to normalcy, the Go RVing Coalition is looking to incrementally increase spending on the Go RVing market expansion program while taking steps to refine leads that dealers receive.
”We are spending at a much better level in 2010 than we did in 2009, obviously,” said Gary LaBella, vice president and chief marketing officer of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), following the coalition’s meeting last week in South Bend, Ind., during RVIA Committee Week.
”But we are still only halfway to where we were three years ago,” he added. ”We promised the industry we would spend efficiently and effectively. But let’s not kid ourselves, when you are spending half as much as you were three years ago, you can’t pull rabbits out of a hat. You are not going to make the same over impact on the consumer marketplace.”
LaBella pointed out that other industries have had similar problems — notably the boating industry, which canceled its Discover Boating marketing program altogether.
Meanwhile, amid rising wholesale shipments, the Go RVing per unit assessment for RVIA members remains $46 for folding camping trailers and truck campers; $61 for travel trailers and fifth-wheel travel trailers; and $74 for motorhomes.
As a result, the industry’s Go RVing campaign this year will spend $8.2 million on advertising buys compared to $3.5 million in 2009. Three years ago the ad budget was in the $16 million range.
To keep costs down, the coalition earlier this year introduced a new series of budget-minded ”Ambassadors of Affordability” ads using animated characters and unused resources from earlier phases of the Go RVing marketing campaign. LaBella said response of dealers, manufactures and consumers to the new ads has been positive.
”Our initial strategy of trying to do something fresh and new that would stand out in the clutter of advertising … has played out to our liking very much,” LaBella said. ”We feel good about the fact that we kept the program going at such a strong level. We are doing a lot with what we’ve got.”
Fewer dealers, however, are participating this year in the $225-a-year optional program that gives them 24/7 access to the Go RVing leads data base, a Go RVing ad builder and other marketing tools.
According to the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Assocation (RVDA) 390 dealers signed up for the program through the end of May compared to 442 dealers during the same period last year.
That could be, LaBella acknowledged, because of questions about the viability of leads that are sent to dealers when people contact Go RVing via its website, www.gorving.com.
During its meeting the coalition approved a ”lead prioritization” model suggested by its ad agency, The Richards Group, Dallas, Texas, that will identify key lead demographics and rate prospects in several categories from ” highly likely” to buy to ”interested”in buying.
”We will be able to get a better handle on where the potential buyer is in the lead process,” LaBella said. ”We understand there have been some questions about the quality of all Go RVing leads, but we are responding to it.”
LaBella said the coalition is taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding future spending increases.
”Everybody would like to see Go RVing return to the level of impact on the marketplace that we had three years ago when we had twice the (media) budget,” LaBella said. ”How do we get there? When do we get there, and how do we raise the money that is needed at a time when there is still unease in the RV marketplace?”
LaBella said he didn’t have answers to the questions, but that coalition members would be considering alternatives before a scheduled Oct. 6 coalition meeting during the RVDA’s RV Dealers International Convention and Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.
”There’s a point of debate,” he said. ”When is the right time to, No. 1, change the assessment structure, if it is to be changed, and No 2, what would be the expected results from doing so.”
”All that will be evaluated and debated over the summer. We will watch closely where the marketing is going and what the manufacturers and dealers are saying (about the need) for an assessment change of any sort.”
Innovative, animated television commercials with the same timely “Go Affordably, Go RVing” theme as the print ads and a bold new look and theme song are expected to capture a new audience for Go RVing in 2010, the Go RVing Coalition reports.
“Launching in mid-February, the campaign will introduce Go RVing’s “Ambassadors of Affordability” animals from the popular “What Will You Discover” print ads animated with voices and cutting-edge special effects, to communicate RV value messages,” the coalition states in a news release.
Four new 30-second television spots were produced, combining existing photography from the Go RVing print ads with shots of current model RVs. Lighter, fuel-efficient, attractively priced RVs are featured to support the affordability theme of the ads.
The cornerstone of the campaign is a spot featuring the animal ambassadors in a lush forest setting singing the classic Western ballad ”Back in the Saddle Again.” Starring a bison, bear and fox with a full supporting cast of animals, big and small, the spot concludes with the tagline, ”It’s amazing how affordable an RV vacation can be. Visit GoRVing.com for a free video. Go Affordably. Go RVing,” while on-screen signage includes a call-to-action to ”visit an RV dealer” and GoRVing.com. This commercial will be the first to air beginning January 2010.
Three additional commercials in the series feature the same music track, but each plot highlights different reasons families enjoy RVing. In one spot, a jackrabbit is moved when he sees families enjoying themselves outdoors with their RVs and decides he wants to pack up his own large family and head out on an RV vacation. Another spot stars the bison and fox enjoying a romantic escape in their RV under the twinkling stars and planets, and ends with them toasting marshmallows over their campfire.
In the final spot, turtles in the campground pond enviously compare how much more ”stuff” RVs can carry in their shell, than the turtles themselves. The spots conclude with the tagline, ”It’s surprising just how affordable an RV vacation can be. See for yourself at GoRVing.com and get a free video. Or visit an RV dealer. Go affordably. Go RVing” as well as on-screen signage that promotes the website.
”Utilizing an animated ad series featuring memorable animal characters that personify all the reasons why families want to go RVing, the new campaign will re-energize both consumers and the industry just as the economy is expected to turn around,” maintains Gary LaBella, RVIA vice president and chief marketing officer. “Consumers will be ready to start spending again on items perceived to be a good value, and the ads will keep Go RVing’s message in the forefront as they begin to make those purchase decisions.”
According to Go RVing co-chairman Tom Stinnett of Tom Stinnett RV Freedom Center, Clarksville, Ind., the ”Ambassadors of Affordability” campaign was chosen by an all-industry Creative Work Group as the best new creative direction developed by Go RVing’s ad agency, The Richards Group. The Creative Work Group met in October 2009 where several campaign concepts were presented and reviewed.
The Go RVing Coalition, formed in 1994, consists of RV manufacturers, component suppliers, dealers and campgrounds. Go RVing works to provide the public and media with pertinent information about the benefits of RV travel. For more information, visit GoRVing.com.
Innovative new ”Ambassadors of Affordability” animated television commercials and a redesigned website staged to re-energize consumers as the economy recovers will debut the weekend of February 12-14 in conjunction with the 2010 Winter Olympics and Daytona 500 pre-race programming on the SPEED network. The coordinating, redesigned Go RVing website launches Feb. 12.
”Higher RV shipments being forecast by the University of Michigan for the new year will allow us to invest $8.25 million in advertising as Americans are starting to feel more secure in their spending decisions,” said Gary LaBella, RVIA vice president and chief marketing officer. ”This is great news for the campaign as it’s more than double the 2009 budget, although still only half what we were able to spend in 2007. The increased funding is allowing us to develop a far-reaching campaign that spans many market segments.”
The Winter Olympics buy, targeting a huge family viewing audience, includes 105 spots during Olympics programming starting Feb. 13 on NBC plus ads on MSNBC, CNBC, USA and live daytime coverage on Universal Sports. The first SPEED spot airs Feb. 12 on the popular ”Trackside” program, along with the premiere showing of a new Go RVing travel vignette featuring NASCAR personality Rutledge Wood and his family.
An additional 454 spots will air during Universal Sports’ programming coverage of World Cup Alpine Skiing, the Track & Field World Championships, American Cup Gymnastics, US Freestyle Ski Cup and more. For the first time, Go RVing will also have courtside signage during 29 regular-season NCAA basketball games and 118 postseason tournament games televised on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2. ”Spots on continuing coverage of NASCAR, Triple Crown horseracing, Xtreme Bulls and professional bowling return to our media line-up, joined by major league baseball advertising on FOX Sports Net,” said the coalition in a release. ”MLB exposure continues through the season with an ad buy on regional cable telecast coverage; this is in addition to the arena media advertising Go RVing has sponsored in 26 MLB stadiums across the country for the past several years. Research shows that sports viewers are a fertile audience for Go RVing.”
For the fourth year, Go RVing has renewed its advertising partnership with the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) with ads running on ESPN-televised tournament events throughout the spring. Go RVing will sponsor 165 30-second ad spots, on-screen billboards, lane signage, and the Go RVing Match Play Championship in Norwich, Conn., with televised finals on March 21. This season’s Go RVing PBA team consists of motorhome traveler Walter Ray Williams Jr., the top all-time money winner, along with Mike Machuga and Mike Wolfe. They’ll wear the Go RVing logo on their shirts and play with specially designed Go RVing spare balls.
New to the Go RVing 2010 television lineup is major league baseball on FOX Sports Net. MLB exposure continues through the season with an ad buy on regional cable telecast coverage in addition to the arena media advertising Go RVing has sponsored in 26 MLB stadiums across the country for the past several years.
Go RVing, meanwhile, will reach non-sports TV audiences with two important new buys as well as many returning buys. A cross-platform media partnership with cable’s History network provides an integrated blend of TV, print and web exposure throughout the spring and summer. Go RVing will run TV spots during History’s popular ”Modern Marvels” and the new reality series ”American Pickers” in addition to ads in five issues of History magazine; and custom content in a 32-page pull-n-save Top Ten Destinations guide.
On the Travel Channel, seen by avid travelers in some 90 million households, there will be a special National Parks Week sponsorship this spring through which Go RVing spots and billboards will promote RVs as the best way to visit the national parks as part of a special National Parks Week sponsorship this spring.
The rest of the $4.1 million television buy remains in cost-effective direct response ads on proven cable networks like Discovery, TBS, TNT, USA, Food Network, The Weather Channel, TLC and more. With time-strapped viewers recording programming to watch at a later time, Go RVing has also teamed up with TiVo to provide customized content from the Getting Started consumer information video.
”The ‘Go Affordably. Go RVing’ print ads introduced in 2009 — the inspiration for the new TV spots — will appear in 27 major consumer magazines that have a strong history of delivering leads plus a good editorial environment for our ads,” the Go RVing Coalition release stated. ”Emphasis was placed on reaching readers with a strong propensity to travel and a passion for spending time with family. Top publications on the plan include Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, Better Homes & Gardens, Sherman’s Travel, Ladies Home Journal, Woman’s Day and Good Housekeeping.”
The total print budget: $2.5 million.
Internet advertising — the most cost-efficient source of leads — will include banners on Google, Yahoo, National Geographic, WeatherBug, Sherman’s Travel, Dogtime.com and Weather.com, on a total budget of $1.6 million.
In addition, Go RVing will continue its low-cost, high-impact investment in social media in 2010, using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to generate millions of impressions for almost no cost. In 2009, Go RVing’s Facebook page was viewed more than 100,000 times.
”Over the past tough year, Go RVing successfully maximized media for the dollars available and helped the RV industry build demand in a down market,” said LaBella. “With an increased budget in 2010, Go RVing will be able to stimulate even more consumer demand.”
The Go RVing Coalition, formed in 1994, consists of RV manufacturers, component suppliers, dealers and campgrounds. Go RVing works to provide the public and media with pertinent information about the benefits of RV travel.
RV Business today (Aug. 31) has announced selections for the 2nd Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards, which are based on the nominations of North American RV manufacturers and are to be presented on the evening of Wed., Oct. 7, at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.
A volunteer panel of industry veterans concluded its review of dealer applications on Aug. 21 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., keeping a keen eye on dealers’ overall focus on professionalism, association activities, civic involvement, best practices and consumer care.
Above all, RVB Publisher Sherman Goldenberg maintains, the mission of the Top 50 program is to continue to remind individual dealers – and the industry at large – of the intent and specific recommendations of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence and, beyond that, to give attendees at the Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association’s (RVDA) Con/Expo a chance to relax and reflect on a year that was trying at best.
“We had an overwhelming response from our manufacturer nominees this year,” said Goldenberg. “The number of applicants received was about 40% more than what we had in 2008. Before judging even started, we considered this year’s program a success, and that was largely due to the many quality dealerships submitting applications. Because there were so many worthy RV dealers who applied, it was a much more difficult selection process this time around, and, unfortunately, we weren’t able to include everyone who applied.”
“The judges did take a very good look at all the application materials dealers sent in, and it was a very close race,” adds BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates Inc., whose Mishawaka, Ind.-based agency oversees the application process for RVB. “We encourage all participating dealers, whether they were selected or not, to reapply next year.”
RVB Top 50 dealers are not ranked, although 10 Blue Ribbon retailers are singled out for special recognition. In addition, a Dave Altman Award for lifetime achievement in RV retailing and exceptional corporate citizenship will also be presented to one of the Blue Ribbon dealers at this year’s RVBT50 dinner at which Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, the former — and possibly future — Republican presidential candidate will be keynote speaker.
“Given the current national political climate and the ongoing debate between the two political parties — and the ways in which these debates directly impact the recreational vehicle industry — we consider Mr. Huckabee an excellent and thought-provoking choice for an enjoyable evening in Las Vegas,” said Goldenberg. “And that goes for industry people of all political persuasions.”
The following U.S. and Canadian retailers are the recipients of the 2009 RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards (in unranked, alphabetical order):
- Aberdeen RV Center, Aberdeen, MS
- Aloha RV, Albuquerque, NM
- Altman’s Winnebago, Carson, CA
- American RV, Grand Rapids, MI
- Apache Village RV Center, Hazelwood, MO
- ArrKann Trailer & RV Centre, Edmonton, AB
- Beckley’s Camping Center, Thurmont, MD
- Big Country RV, Bend, OR
- Bill Plemmons RV World, Rural Hall, NC
- Boat N RV Superstores, Rockwood, Tenn.
- Can-Am RV Centre, London, ON
- Carolina Coach & Camper, Claremont, NC
- Coachlight RV, Carthage, MO
- Coates Trailer Sales, Columbus, MN
- Colonial Airstream, Lakewood, NJ
- Crown RV, Conyers, GA
- Curtis Trailers, Portland, OR
- Dandy RV Superstore, Anniston, AL
- Dixie RV Superstore, Newport News, VA
- Dodd RV, Yorktown, VA
- General RV, Wixom, MI
- Giant RV, Montclair, CA
- Greeneway Campers, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
- Guaranty RV, Junction City, OR
- Hilltop Trailer Sales, Fridley, MN
- Ketelsen Campers of Colorado, Wheat Ridge, CO
- Kings Campers, Wausaw, WI
- Lazydays RV Supercenter, Seffner, FL
- Little Dealer Little Prices, Phoenix, AZ
- Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores, Santa Fe Springs, CA
- Modern Trailer Sales, Anderson, IN
- Mount Comfort RV, Greenfield, IN
- Parkview RV, Smyrna, DE
- PleasureLand RV Centers, St. Cloud, MN
- Poulsbo RV, Kent, WA
- Quality RV, Draper, UT
- Reines RV Center, Manassas, VA
- Richardson’s RV, Sun City, CA
- Rick’s RV Center, Joliet, IL
- Roy Robinson RV, Marysville, WA
- RV America Inc., Johnstown, CO
- Steinbring Motorcoach, Garfield, MN
- Tennessee RV Sales & Service, Knoxville, TN
- Terrell Camping Center, Terrell, NC
- Thompson Family RV, Davenport, IA
- Tom Johnson’s Camping Center, Marion, NC
- Topper’s Camping Center, Waller, TX
- Trafford’s RV, Center Conway, NH
- Veurinks’ RV Center, Grand Rapids, MI
- Woody’s RV World, Red Deer, AB
Building on last year’s format, which appears to have worked rather well for those involved, RV Business Top 50 Dealer Award honorees will be promoted in the national press, in dealers’ hometown newspapers and in the pages and websites — of Affinity’s trade and consumer magazines: RV Business, Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.
Underwriting this year’s program are Platinum co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, UT; Blue Ox, Pender, NE; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, AZ; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, MN.; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, SC, RV Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, VA, and Ultra-Fab Products, Elkhart, IN, while Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield, MO, is a Gold sponsor.
Tickets for the $120-a-plate dinner ($99 for RVDA members, Con/Expo exhibitors and Top 50 dealer guests) are available through RVBUSINESS.com’s registration link (http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-registration-form/).
“All in all, we can’t imagine that anyone attending the RVDA Con/Expo wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to mix with Mr. Huckabee and their industry peers at the cocktail party prior to our dinner and to hear Mr. Huckabee speak on the hot topics of the day at the dinner itself, regardless of their political persuasion,” said Goldenberg. “And, of course, we’ll honor our dealers, one by one, at the dinner as well, giving everyone a chance to reflect on the professionalism for which we’re trying to help raise the bar in this industry.”
The Recreation Vehicle Education Safety Foundation (RVSEF) will take on an expanded role educating consumers about RVs and the RV lifestyle during a Sept. 13-16 clinc prior to the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey, Pa.
“The number of RVers attending rallies is down, but the percentage of people attending our weighing and driving seminars actually is up,” said Walter Cannon, executive director of the Merrit Island, Fla.-based RVSEF.
Seminars will be presented by Workhorse Custom Chassis Inc., Spartan Chassis Inc., Freightliner Custom Chassis Inc., Cummins Inc.’s Onan generator division and Gary Motley of Motley RV Repair, Oklahoma City, Okla., in addition to the Geeks on Tour, who will teach Internet-related subjects, Nick Russell, publisher of Gypsy Journal, an RV lifestyle magazine, and Mac McCoy, who will instruct on fire and personal safety.
Cannon’s foundation has a full-time team on the road attending about 40 rallies a year sponsoring safety seminars focused on weighing loaded RVs and providing weight-safety instruction. RVSEF — the successor organization to “A’Weigh We Go” founded by John Anderson in Chucky, Tenn. — weighed about 1,500 motorhomes and towable RVs last year.
“We are seeing a decrease in the number of RVers who are overloading their tires,” Cannon said. “The tire manufacturers … have convinced RV manufacturers to install tires for how RVers are using their coaches.”
E-mails promoting the Pennsylvania clinic have gone out to potential RVers visiting the Go RVing Coalition’s gorving.com website, with another round of e-mail and postal mail followups planned early this summer.
The RVSEF clinic at the Wildwood Conference Center at Harrisburg (Pa.) Community College, in a manner of speaking, will fill a vacancy left by the poplar Life On Wheels program, which shut its doors in October following the death of founder Gaylord Maxwell. Maxwell sponsored his last Life on Wheels conference the week before the 2008 Hershey Show.
Dry camping for 100 rigs will be available at the college, and those attending for $249 for the first person and $199 for the second also will receive a three-day pass to the Hershey Show Sept. 16-20. Retail days are Sept. 14-15.
“The general need for a program like this is two-pronged,” Cannon said. “For the new owners, it enables them to understand their RV and the RV lifestyle so that they can get the most enjoyment out of their RV dollar.
“The second thing is that 30% of the attendees at Life on Wheels were non-RV owners. They were educating themselves about RVs before committing themselves to the expense. And about 90% of them purchased an RV during the next six months. It wasn’t a dealer or manufacturer talking to them, and they left Gaylord’s clinics feeling that they had the tools to make a decision about how to spend their money wisely.”