Today was the annual Atlanta Camping and RV show in Jonesboro, just south of the city. Barbara and I have been to this show at least 3 times in the past, and while not one of the better shows to go to (the location and venue have always left a lot to be desired), it's at least been acceptable
Today was a big disappointment.
I mean, it's always fun to walk through lots of RV's just to see what's new, even looking at models or types of RV's we aren't interested in getting - nothing wrong with travel trailers or 5th wheels, but they're just not what we need for full-timing beginning in 7 months and 8 days (thanks for asking!). It's also a lot of fun following our grandson Jace as he runs from one to the other, saying' "I want to go in THIS one"! Truth be told, he wants to go in EVERY ONE, but that's another story . . .
What struck us this year was a couple of things. First, the quality of vendor booths, while never really focused on all things RV, was even lower this year. I mean, how many home improvement companies truly think they're going to get any significant business from people looking at RV's? Gutter replacement, siding contractors, bathroom refinishing - you name it. OK, I guess that maybe if someone was going to sell their house before going on the road, MAYBE they might need one of these companies to get their home ready to sell, but that's a real outside shot. And knife sets? Most people are looking to GET RID of things before going RVing, not add more stuff. I'll bet fully half the vendors there would be better served at a home show, not an RV show.
Then there's the RV dealers themselves. It just seemed as if they really didn't give a good damn what their products looked like. Only one dealer, NIRVC, took the time to present their high-end class-A diesel motorhomes as "dressed". Placemats on the table. Bowl of fake fruit or a plate with fake food on it; bedspread and pillows neatly arranged on the bed.
It's as if none of these dealers ever studied or practiced marketing to consumers in their life!
Look, I don't care what your "show special" price is (and most prices were typically not that special), if the motorhome lists for $150k or higher, dress it up! No bedspreads on most models, no presentation in the living or dining areas, doors that wouldn't close properly, one stove cover that wouldn't lay flush with the counter top; the list goes on and on. How much would it cost a dealer to get a couple of dozen fake bowls of fruit for the kitchen counters? Place settings for the kitchen tables? All these higher end units ship with pillows and bedspreads - where did they all go?
And there's no shortage of worker bees at these shows, so how about sending them through each high-end coach every hour or so to make sure someone hasn't messed up a sliding door because they thought it pulled opened like a regular door (ouch!), or to make sure that bathroom door closed without problems? Isn't the goal to sell one of these things to an interested buyer? And maybe these dealers should hire people who actually KNOW something about the products they sell. We asked the guy who was responsible for setting up the display at Campers Inn where two particular model Tiffins were supposed to be shown, and he didn't even know that they never sent them to the show!
So besides the above, why was this show so disappointing, when it was at least acceptable to us in the past? Two words:
"Hershey" and "Tampa".
Those two supershows have set the bar so high for us that the others just pale in comparison. Bigger dealers, more manufacturer participation, and more competition means folks need to do more to stand out against their competitors, and it shows. There's also a glut of third-party providers of actual RV-based accessories at Hershey and Tampa. Today we saw a lot of "trinkets and trash" kind of vendors in addition to the ones mentioned above, but not a single, solitary RV accessory provider at this show. If I've learned one thing over the past 3 years of research, the right accessory can make or break that $200k-$500k purchase once you get on the road, and this show either ignores them, or the spots are taken up with these other non-RV vendors and no more are available.
But yeah, we've been spoiled by the best. Thanks a pant-load, Hershey and Tampa!
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're living the ultimate retirement experience - traveling the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, playing golf and stopping at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.