The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association commissioned an Economic Impact Study on the RV industry, released on June 7, 2016. The study found that the RV industry contributes about $49.7 billion in economic output or 0.28 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Through its production and distribution linkages, the industry impacts firms in 426 of the 440 sectors of the United States economy.
Nationwide, the industry is responsible for 216,170 jobs, both directly and inderectly, creating an economic impact of $37.5 billion. The full study results, along with each individual state and congressional district's economic impact is available on the website by clicking here .
Thu Aug 10, 2017
The following is an opinion article written by RVAA Board of Directors Members Craig Floyd and Tom Manning for the August Issue of RV News Magazine.
Laying the course for the future is never easy. Strategic planning usually involves change, and just as often, that change is met with resistance. After all, keeping things the same is easier because the status quo is known and is comfortable. Yet sometimes change is needed and is good. The best way to know whether change is right or wrong is to understand the whole picture.
Members of RVAA are being asked to vote to either make a drastic change within the organization or hold on to the way things have been for the last 20 years. Being RVAA board members as well as proponents of such a change, we want to share our thoughts about it with the RV News readership. If the vote is still open when you read this article, perhaps the information we present here will help you decide which way to vote. If the vote is already done, please look at these thoughts and reflect on where we go from here . . . regardless of the vote’s outcome.
Some of us have deep roots within RVAA, dating back to when it was called the Wholesale Distributors Association (WDA). Started in 1969, WDA flourished through the 80s as a vibrant, active and well-financed entity. Its premier event, the Executive Conference, provided a great venue for distributors to meet with suppliers and discuss issues of the day. Additionally, each market segment spun off into its own business meetings during the conference and discussed common topics important to their own segments. Distributors talked amongst themselves about how they could get suppliers to perform better, and suppliers bantered with each other about distributors. Agents of course, discussed how to deal with issues relating to both distributors and suppliers.
The conference was a great venue for thoughtful, productive discussions. At the time, the distributor segment exceeded 45 members, which provided ample meetings for suppliers. Furthermore, there was a “hot topic” buzz surrounding the conference each year, spurring interest, conversation and progress. The conference was always a positive event, regardless of economic times.
The first financial woe hit in 1987. Flush with cash, the association had placed a lot of its excess revenues into the stock market. Catastrophe hit financial markets worldwide when the crash known as Black Monday occurred in October of that year, and almost all the association’s excess cash was wiped out. Yet income was still strong, so business carried on as usual.
In the early 90s, membership in the association softened as Coast Distribution absorbed many of the smaller distributors of the day. Reduced membership meant fewer distributors attended the annual Executive Conference, so suppliers had unfilled meeting slots at the event. The conference became less fruitful for suppliers, and some therefore lost interest in attending. WDA revenues shrank as a result.
Historically, a fair number of Manufactured Housing (MH) distributors belonged to the association, along with distributors that serviced both the RV and MH industries. The go-to-market strategies of the RV and MH industries are inherently different, however, and this difference caused RV-distributor members to push for the “well-defined parameters” of the bylaws to be adhered to. The result was that few MH distributor members qualified for membership, so the number of distributor members attending conference was further reduced. National Supply was another member to leave the organization at that time.
As membership in the distributor segment shrank, revenues followed, and by the late 90s, the association was struggling financially. The lack of members made it harder to generate cash. Times were bleak for the association, and the future was unknown.
A determined board of directors got together, though, and this group refocused the association. A strategic planning session was held in Chicago, and a new vision and mission statement were born. Along with the new direction, the association was given a new name to reflect the change. The RV Aftermarket Association (RVAA) came into existence at that time, and its focus was to perpetuate and grow the RV aftermarket by implementing programs to support that goal.
Today, RVAA’s annual conference is thriving and is attended by nearly all RV distributors, a host of suppliers and some agents. The conference is well run, meets the needs of most members, and is a viable enough asset alone to keep the association intact. The association does a good job of maintaining its greatest asset.
Where the association has fallen short is in fulfilling the vision and mission statement laid out by the group of people who met in Chicago all those years ago. The association falls short in developing programs that support the proliferation of the RV aftermarket. While some members are pleased with simply being a conference and nothing more, other members feel strongly that the association must do more.
From a financial perspective, paying a management team to run our association simply to have a conference makes poor financial sense. For some time now, many on the team have believed the association’s vision and mission would be best served if we partnered with an entity such as RVIA or RVDA to manage the conference. Each of those organizations already has the administrative talent to proficiently run the event, and RVAA would be paying people within the industry to do the job, as opposed to an outside agency. Consolidating management teams seems like the best use of the membership’s dues.
The larger question is, how can the RVAA better accomplish the mission of serving the needs of the aftermarket? How does the association grow past merely having a conference?
One such example cited by a member recently is the challenge of internet pricing. The erosion of retail pricing structures caused by the internet is a challenge to us all, across markets, but who is addressing this concern for our market? Who is providing ideas and suggestions for addressing these problems to help minimize the effects for all concerned? A strong aftermarket is attained only by having healthy brick-and-mortar facilities where consumers can have their RVs serviced and accessories installed. We need guidance and direction from industry leaders on how to address such issues.
Certainly, RVAA’s members should have a role in helping provide guidance. Yet funding a professional staff to help address issues such as this is a challenge. The association has shown it lacks the infrastructure to execute its mission. Membership would need to build an infrastructure beyond what is currently in place, one that would more closely parallel that of RVIA or RVDA. And that brings us full circle, raising the question of do we duplicate infrastructure or join forces with an entity that already has that infrastructure in place?
RVAA’s current structure consists of industry volunteers who generously donate their time and effort to help direct the association’s efforts. All are good people with great ideas and a lot of positive energy. In fact, you will not find a better group of competitors who set aside personal and business interests to work together on association issues. Not only has that unity been the spirit of the association from the outset, it is part of what distinguishes the whole market from the rest of the world—so it should come as no surprise.
The contracted RVAA management team can execute on the association’s current needs and has capacity beyond. The team manages many associations, and RVAA benefits from its ability to share experiences between associations. To make better use of that team’s talents and step up to the next level, however, would require additional costs and investments by membership.
If the vote to join efforts with RVIA is positive, an aftermarket committee will be created within RVIA to focus on aftermarket needs. The committee will be modeled after the current RVAA board of directors and will execute RVAA’s mission statement. Within this infrastructure, the committee will focus on issues that affect the aftermarket and bring them to the RVIA board and directors. This committee will also be responsible for interacting with other RVIA committees to ensure robust communication and idea sharing amongst all groups that affect the aftermarket.
It is our strong belief that being involved with and working within this infrastructure is the most effective way to have an impact on issues that affect our members’ interests.
The Heart of the Matter
To some RVAA members, voting in favor of joining RVIA seems like a “no-brainer.” To others, it seems heretical even to suggest walking away from an association charter and becoming a mere committee. In our opinion, the goal is not to be a charter. The goal is to serve the best interests of the aftermarket. If that means being a smaller part of something larger than us, that is fine—if we ultimately serve the interests of our members effectively.
Our success will be measured only by what we end up gaining as a result. Today, we have a conference, and tomorrow we will have a conference. RVIA has committed to supporting the conference for three years and past that, as long as it remains a viable event. Changes to the conference are controlled by a vote of the aftermarket committee.
If, by joining forces, we can effect even the slightest amount of positive change for the aftermarket, we are better off than we are today.
Our fear is not what we might lose from this. Our fear is that the vote passes and our members do not get involved and take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference. You and I as leaders of our companies can only create the environment for our people to succeed. We can provide the right setting and the right tools, but they are the ones who need to act to create the success.
The board of RVAA believes this change makes sense and will provide the means to positively affect all aftermarket interests. Whether RVAA stays with the status quo or moves to this new opportunity, the execution of the plan will be up to you.
Craig Floyd serves on the RVAA board of directors and on various RVAA committees. He is general manager of RV/OEM/aftermarket at Industrial Finishes & Systems, Inc. Floyd has been involved in the RV industry for nearly 30 years and serves on RVIA’s board of directors as well as on its supplier, membership, marketing information and tradeshow/annual show committees.
Tom Manning is the current treasurer of the RVAA board of directors and has served on the RVAA board for a collective 12 years. He was awarded the Jim Barker Award, RVAA’s highest individual honor, and is owner/manager of both Tom Manning & Associates and AP Products. Tom began his RV Industry career in 1985, when he joined his father’s agency.