EXCLUSIVE: The Keller RV & Marine Accessory Show Wraps Up

A picture of Mike and Michael Keller at the Keller Marine & RV Accessory Show Luncheon.
Keller Marine & RV Director of Sales Michael Keller (L) and President Mike Keller address attendees during a State of the Industry Luncheon at the 2023 Accessory Show.

The Keller RV & Marine Annual Distribution Show bustled with activity in Hershey, Pennsylvania on Nov. 20-21. Hershey Lodge’s Great American Hall at the Hershey Lodge & Convention Center was filled with around 115 supplier booths. The in-person event captured President Mike Keller’s vision for customer collaboration and partnerships.

The show kicked off with a State of the Industry Luncheon at 1 p.m. The luncheon featured the father-son duo Mike Keller and Keller Marine & RV Director of Sales Michael Keller. The two men dubbed the kick-off luncheon the “Mike and Mike show.” The meeting began with a positive 2024 outlook and a heartfelt commitment to the supplier, dealer, retail store and repair shop attendee audience.

Mike Keller’s opening statement was, “We are here to be your partner.”

The Kellers then delivered insight into successfully selling aftermarket RV and marine parts in a market that is more competitive than in years past. The senior Keller advised the crowd on the importance of having an exceptional parts store staffed by knowledgeable and dedicated employees focused on the customer experience. He said that many businesses have traditionally focused on gross margin but suggested the metric can be deceiving when not factoring parts turnover.

A picture of a slide presentation at the State of the Industry Lunch at Keller Marine & RV 2023 Accessory Show.

Using a baseball analogy to prove his point, he said having a .400 batting average is great but if a player only took the plate six times, the batting average was relatively unimpressive. He said selling parts and accessories is similar, and a baseball player’s times at the plate was similar to inventory turns and batting average equated to gross margin. He essentially said swinging for a home run each time doesn’t always equate to points scored or games won.

He suggested that if a retailer only sells a specific SKU one or two times, the gross profit margin—regardless of how high it is for each of the sales—equates to very return on investment. However, a part with a lower margin that flies off the shelf repeatedly is a better path to success in today’s competitive market, he said.

As a result, Keller said retail pricing should reflect the product category rather than simply a set margin percentage. Being strategic on what specific parts are in inventory at a retail store and how often they turn is a better metric that defines success than using gross profit margin alone.

The presentation highlighted the importance of tracking OE repair parts and aftermarket inventory and how over time, original equipment SKUs needed for repairs can clog up retailers’ dealer management systems and fill back rooms with old, obsolete parts and SKUs.

Moving away from retail advice, the president announced the creation of a new Keller Marine & RV Hall of Fame award during the luncheon. The Keller Hall of Fame recognizes representatives who have won Keller’s Most Aggressive Sales Representative Award multiple times in years past.

A picture of a slide presentation at the State of the Industry Lunch at Keller Marine & RV 2023 Accessory Show.

On the RV side, Lippert’s John Gross had won Keller’s award four times in years past. He was the first Keller RV Hall of Fame inductee. Manufacturer’s rep agency Wellman Sports Marketing’s Rob Abers from the marine side also won four times. He joined Abers as the first Keller marine Hall of Fame inductee. He represents supplier Johnson Outdoors which manufacturers trolling motors, depth finders and other marine related accessories.

The luncheon concluded with presentations from the show’s 10 platinum supplier sponsors. They included: Dometic, Pull-Rite, AP Products, Southwire, Carefree of Colorado, Lippert, Blue Ox, Valterra, AirHead and Taylor Made.

Each of the sponsors gave a two-minute presentation on show pricing incentives and featured products available in their booths.

A Dealer’s Perspective

After lunch, the show floor doors swung open, and retailer attendees flooded the showroom. An estimated 300 retail stores attended the event with many companies bringing several employees.

Craig Beckley, Beckley’s Camping Center owner and director of parts and services, drove a little over an hour to attend the event. He brought the majority of the business’ leadership team with him. Beckley said attending the show was vital to his business and his show experience mirrored what he sees from Keller Marine & RV employees daily.

Beckley cited how Keller helped his business address a massive parts/accessories overstock situation in 2023. Beckley said Mike Keller negotiated on Beckley’s behalf with an OE/aftermarket supplier, the kind of specialized service the regional distributor offers dealers like Beckley’s.

A picture of Mike Keller handing the Hall of Fame award to John Gross.

Beckley has attended the Keller show since 1990. He said he values the ability to work directly with the Keller family including his Keller Marine & RV representative Nick Aucker. Beckley said the distributor consistently goes “the extra mile to help dealers.”

Beckley said he values how personable the distributor is.

“They care about us,” Beckley said. “We are not a number to them, nor are they a number to us.”

After the first day, Beckley cited Keller year-end rebates as just one way the distributor adds value to the company’s profitability. The rebate gives retailers 10% of spending back at the end of the year.

“The check is in my back pocket right now,” Beckley said with a smile. “By far, it is not the biggest reason I am dedicated to working with them, but it does not hurt either.”

Beckley said he reviewed various products at the show but had most of his order laid out before arriving. Among the most impressive new products was Pullrite’s new OEX fifth wheel hitch line that has a single base but two coupling options. A video featuring the product can be viewed by clicking here.

A Supplier’s Perspective

The show’s in-person aspect was an immense benefit for exhibitors such as Southwire Company National Sales Manager Mike Conway. He said the conversations on the show floor were extremely productive and more than covered his costs to exhibit. He cited strong show orders that not only exceeded last year’s event but also orders that exceeded other regional and national distributor shows that had already taken place.

Conway said he met a new retailer Monday who never stocked Southwire products in the past. Based on personal recommendations from the Keller sales team and the interaction with Conway on the first day, the dealer was allocating Southwire significant shelf space in 2024.

“Keller’s sales team positioning retailers with the best products for their stores at competitive pricing is not unusual. That is very typical for Keller,” Conway said, “and that is why, even on the week of Thanksgiving, I am personally here. When I look around at the other exhibitors the holiday was not a deterrent for most. The suppliers I would expect to be here are right alongside me. I thought the traffic the first day would be light but it was not. It is rare you see people place big orders at a distributor show on the first day. Most attendees walk around and get their bearing and buy on day two. That did not happen today. We took orders from the get-go.”

A picture of attendees entering the show floor at the 2023 Keller Marine & RV Accessory Show.

Keller Marine & RV’s virtual show will open Monday for those attendees who wish to lock in special pricing for the entire year by entering a qualifying order. Keller said many retailers return from the show and then add items they may have forgotten to buy during the two-day event. Other retailers start from scratch and lock in their orders immediately after the holiday.

Michael Keller encouraged retailers to reach out and speak with a member of the Keller Marine & RV sales team to tap into the vast amount of research the distributor has done on what products retailers must have in 2024. He said the company offers three differing purchasing plans for retailers to get what they need and provide a method to pay for the inventory in a way that best fits the retailer’s needs.

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