Boasting a marked gain in overall attendance and a broader, more engaging format, this year’s Recreational Vehicle Aftermarket Association (RVAA) Executive Conference stood as another step toward the organization building a stronger presence in the industry.
“I think there are a combination of things that have helped the aftermarket business become more important to dealers,” said RVAA President Aaron Engberg in the wake of the Aug. 12-16 conference held at the Omni Parker House in Boston. “Interestingly, the downturn may have benefited the aftermarket. Admittedly, our members suffered like everyone else. But dealers recognized that while they couldn’t sell units, they could sell parts and accessories. It became a pretty nice profit center for them.
“At the same time, the association is healthier and has been adding revenue. Last year, we added over 20 new members, which is a record. Plus, we are also communicating better. All that has contributed to putting the aftermarket on people’s radars.”
Engberg reported that the conference’s total attendance rose to 255 people from 208 in 2012. More importantly, the number of companies also increased significantly to 140, which is vital to the “business meeting” format that has marked the gathering over the years. Included in that number were 98 suppliers, 34 distributors and three RV service members.
“This really isn’t a trade show,” said Engberg, director of mobile sales for Burlington, Iowa-based supplier Winegard Co. “People are doing business while they’re here. The suppliers set up in rooms and have one-on-one, closed door meetings with distributors and service companies. This year, there were over 1,275 meetings set up compared to 875 last year.”
In addition, RVAA for the second straight year added a new dynamic, inviting a “dealer council” to participate in the proceedings. Participating retailers included: Ray Miller, director of operations, Colerain RV; Kevin Kafer, president, Pontiac RV; Jeff Hirsch, president, Campers Inn; Ron Shepherd, president, Camperland of Oklahoma; and Wes Snyder, parts manager, Ketelsen Campers of Colorado.
While emphasizing that RVAA had strict rules and was dedicated to a “two-step distribution system,” Engberg said that having dealers involved “only makes sense” for the association.
“We don’t have any interest in having dealers as members,” he said, adding that the contingent paid their own way for the conference. “But our mission is to help grow aftermarket sales. What better way to do that than opening up communication with the end buyer and giving them a better perspective about the aftermarket.”
The conference also included an awards luncheon as RVAA recognized its top performers. Highlighting the event was the bestowal of the prestigious Jim Barker Award to Tom Manning, owner of Manning and Associates.
“The Jim Barker Award was suspended in 2009 but reinstated last year,” said Engberg, who completed his two-year term and turned over the president’s seat to Jim Stark, owner of Dealer Resources Group. “It is really a lifetime achievement award and represents an individual who has devoted many years to improving the aftermarket industry.”
Other awards included:
Distributor Performance Award: Northern Wholesale Supply
Supplier Performance Award: Camco
Product of the Year: TriPod FASTJACK King Pin Stabilizer – BAL RV Products
President’s Award: Dana Nelson, RV Pro
Stan Sunshine is retiring from his day-to-day involvement in Stag-Parkway Inc., the business he and his family helped build to be the largest distributor of RV parts and accessories in North America.
Sunshine will continue to be involved in the business as a board member of Stag-Parkway and will continue with his industry ties as well as the annual Stag-Parkway trade show, next year being held in Nashville, Tenn., according to a news release.
Sunshine sold Stag-Parkway in 2006 to Greenbrier Equity Group and since then has played an integral role in transitioning the business to new ownership and senior management. “Stan’s contributions over the past three years have been enumerable. His industry insights, familiarity with customers and suppliers have helped all of us gain a better understanding of the market which has enabled us to be successful in even the harshest of business environments,” comments Martin Street, president and CEO of Stag-Parkway.
A native of Atlanta, Ga., and graduate of Georgia State University, Sunshine began his career with Stag-Parkway in 1975. Since then he has held the position of vice president from 1982 to 1989, CFO from 1989 to 1995, president and CEO from 1995 to 2008 and chairman from 2008 to the present.
He represented the industry on the board of the RV Aftermarket Association and served as its president from 1998 to 1999. He has also served on the board of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) from 2004 to the present.
The release continued, “The legacy Stan and (co-founders) Ted and Ann Kaplan leave behind at Stag-Parkway is without question part of the fabric of the RV industry. The family has had a hand in crafting policy and practices across a broad spectrum of industry interests over the past 40 years. Stan’s active involvement in the business did not keep him from giving freely with his time and other resources to support initiatives he felt important to growing the market and the professionalism of those businesses supporting the RV lifestyle.”
Sunshine is continuing his career blending his passion for distribution and fine wine. In 2009 he became a partner in Prime Wines and Spirits, a wine distributor in Atlanta. His new venture will allow him to travel, play golf and spend time with his family while pursuing his love of wine, friends and recreation.
Organizationally, Stag-Parkway has been preparing for this transition for some time. The executive management team was restructured in 2008 with a blend of both people new to the industry as well as those with extensive experience.
“Our organizational direction is clear and has never changed over the years – to grow our business through focusing on our customers and providing exceptional service to our business partners, RV dealers and suppliers alike,” adds Street. ” I believe we have the right kind of experience in the key areas of our business to drive short and long term results. We’ve made huge strides over the past two years streamlining processes and building an infrastructure that is capable of responding quickly to market demands and changes. We are very well positioned to continue the hard work of Stan and his family and are grateful for their contribution to our organization and the industry.”
The RV Aftermarket Association will hold its 2010 Executive Conference Aug. 24-27 at the Hyatt Huntington Beach Waterfort Resort in Huntington Beach, Calif.
RVAA’s annual Executive Conference brings the aftermarket manufacturer and distributor partners together in one location for three days of networrking and one-on-one business meetings that help determine marketing programs and arrangements for the coming year, according to RV Trade Digest. The conference also features numerous social events, including the annual RVAA golf outing set for Aug. 24.
“We are extremely excited to bring our membership to this destination in 2010,” said Karl Etshied, RVAA executive director, “and we are even happier to report that RVAA members will be paying a comfortable $179 nightly rate for oversized standard rooms.”
RVAA will be sending out registration materials to its membership in early 2010.
For more information about the conference or joining RVAA, go to www.rvaahq.com.