The Segment Lunches held during the RVAA Executive Conference are intended to provide an open forum for the membership groups to discuss relevant topics affecting their businesses. Over the past several years the list of topics that the Wholesale Distributor Segment focused on were best practices, aftermarket statistics and helping the aftermarket grow. With one exception, the 2011 discussions didn’t stray too far from those topics again. This year the question of whether the membership would support a market research study focused on consumer behavior as it relates specifically to the purchase of RV aftermarket products was also discussed.
The idea of a research project that zeroed in on key consumer behaviors and preferences appeared to be well received by the membership. What’s the role of the dealer’s sales person in consummating the sale or affecting brand selection? How does merchandising and store layout influence sales? How does a consumer choose where they buy certain types of items? How does the internet impact sales for RV Accessories in retail stores? While getting the answers to these questions had a perceived value, members expressed concerns about funding the project and designing the research to get valid results. Overall, the impression of the group was that the project is worthy of further examination.
Under the topic of Best Practices this year, the distributor membership generally supported the idea of standardization, especially when it came to the New Part Submission Form and Price File. Many distributors use the forms today and agreed that accepting the data in the proposed format would be advantageous. The feedback given by the distributors indicated that vendor compliance has been an issue for those distributors that are pushing for the form to be used. Additionally, some of the distributor members don’t require the standardized forms which may be contributing to the slow acceptance rate for the program.
Having North American aftermarket sales statistics for the membership is a reoccurring topic for the Segment Lunch. It is clear to the membership that having the data would be valuable. That is not debated. The debate rises from the question of how the information is gathered, consolidated and reported. There continues to be an unwillingness among the distributors to share sales information primarily because there is a lack a confidence that the data will in fact remain confidential – even if a private third party performs those functions.
It was generally recognized by the distributor membership that the association could help the Aftermarket grow by focusing on education and training while continuing its push to promote the value of the aftermarket as part of a dealership’s overall success. Training was seen to be especially important at the dealership level where aftermarket sales are most dramatically impacted. Product training, retail training and sales training topped the list of topics that were discussed.
John Spaulding Senior VP Marketing Stag-Parkway, Inc.