Part 2: ARVC Expo Vendors Upbeat on 2013
Editor's Note: WCM Publisher Sherman Goldenberg interviewed a number of vendors at the 2012 ARVC conference in Las Vegas. In this second of several installments that will be published online, he shares his findings in a story that appears in its entirety in the January issue of Woodall's Campground Management.
“We are up about 7% year-over-year, and someday we hope that we will get back to pre-recession levels,” said Wade Elliott, president of Utility Supply Group, a Seattle-area firm that markets electrical-utility site hoses, electric and water meters, distribution panels and other items related to RV and MH park and marina structures. "Seven percent is good. We'll take it and continue to grow from there."
The biggest obstacle in returning to a pre-recessionary pace of business right now is economic uncertainty, Elliott observed. “I think the economy is still wondering about where we go from here. I’ve always been of the mind that my customers, being consumers themselves, don’t spend money when they don’t know what’s going to happen this year. So, they’ve deferred a lot of purchases and maintenance. I think there is a lot of pent-up demand there.
“At some point,” he added, “people are going to say they have to fix the things they’ve got. They’ve got to do the upgrades they want to do. In order for parks to stay even, they’ve got to continue to put capital into their own parks. That pent-up demand at some point is going to break loose — and be good for the industry and for myself and my competitors.”
An ARVC board member who experienced increased traffic as an exhibitor at the Las Vegas conference, Elliott was elected to ARVC’s Supplier Council at the conference, and that’s not a job that he takes lightly. “We need to get suppliers more involved and to be more of a force for good inside the organization — someone who has some leadership, a force to be reckoned with, not in a negative sense,” said Elliott. “We want to be someone that the membership and the staff listens to. More suppliers being heard means they have more worth inside the organization, meaning you get more suppliers advertising and selling to the membership.”
Red Rover, a Fledgling Player in the Campground Biz, Exhibits at ARVC
Making its first appearance at an ARVC Conference were representatives of Red Rover, a marketing company set up as a subsidiary of Southern Pines, N.C.-based Trident Marketing intended to create new customers and drive them to campgrounds to fill empty campsites using state-of-the-art social media, web-based and high-tech marketing technology.
And President Robert Bouse, a former KOA executive who operates out of Austin, Tex., says Red Rover had a “phenomenal” show that “far exceeded expectations.”
“It wasn’t an accident,” said Bouse. “Through publications we did teaser-type ads to get peoples’ interest starting in September to bring them to the concept that Red Rover was something, but they didn’t know what it was. And then each month we added a little bit more to the teaser so that by the time they got here, people were asking, ‘what is this Red Rover thing?’
“Once people found out there is no cost to entry and no contract and the only time it costs them anything is when we actually send them a customer and that it’s a pay-as-you-go marketing program, they’re receptive to the idea,” he added. “We spend all the money, do all the research, drive all the customers in and don't get paid until they actually show up."
Trident, employing a variety of social media marketing tools that the firm utilizes in generating $59 million a year in sales leads for the nation’s second-largest reseller of DIRECTV satellite television service, itself owns six campgrounds comprising Travel Resorts of America.
“Nobody is doing that level of marketing in campgrounds,” said Bouse, noting that his company employes 30 webmasters, 40 social media people and 20 IT workers. “So, our company has looked at that and combined our 30 years of expertise in campground operation with our marketing expertise and is taking it to the industry.”
LCN Outdoor’s Boucher Says ‘Most People are Optimistic’
Business has been pretty good this year for LCN Outdoors LLC, Windsor, Conn., according to owner Norman H. Boucher, whose wholesale distributorship purveys a wide variety of items utilized by campgrounds for the retail store and elsewhere — everything from RV supplies to toys, novelties, apparel, swimming and suntan products, fishing equipment, kayaks, electrical products, fire rings, picnic tables and energy-saving devices.
“The year’s been OK,” said Boucher. “We’ve been on about par with last year, and last year wasn’t a bad year for us. Now, we’ve diversified. We’ve got more electrical boxes that we are selling. That’s helped us out. The toys — that part of the business seems to be slowing down a little bit. But all the other stuff that we’re picking up is making the difference.”
Long story short, Boucher’s sense of the RV park and campground business in general right now is pretty upbeat. “Most of the people are optimistic,” said Boucher, standing in front of his ARVC conference booth. “They’ve made the proper moves in the last two to three years that keep them going, especially those people who are coming to conferences like this and learning about what’s going on, what’s coming out new, learning the real meaning of outdoor hospitality, learning about the water parks and spray parks and camping cabins and park models, the importance of those in growing their business.
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