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RV SuperShow Day 2

I attended a session with the Newmar executive team yesterday.

Kevin Bogan, Vice President of Operations for Newmar, chaired the meeting. Other Newmar executives present included Matt Miller, now a Vice President at Winnebago Industries reporting to Michael Happe, CEO of Winnebago (Matt remains as President of Newmar Corporation), John Sammut, Vice President of Sales (Newmar), Matt Utley, Vice President of Service and Facilities Development (Newmar), Ron Stichter, Vice President of Engineering (Newmar) along with a few other folks.

Kevin opened the session and, as expected, spoke about the acquisition by Winnebago. Kevin provided the standard talking points about how everything will stay the same for customers. Even better for the future.

Kevin then introduced someone else. Someone from Winnebago.

Ashis Bhattacharya.

This is how Ashis describes himself on LinkedIn:

I am a growth-focused business leader who has worked in multiple companies (Winnebago, Honeywell, Moog, Motorola Solutions, Bain & Co) and industries (Outdoor Lifestyle, Industrial Components & Machinery, Telecommunications) around the world. I presently work with Winnebago Industries, the world-renowned brand in RVs, heading strategy, acquisitions, advanced technology and I also head the Specialty Vehicles division of the company.

My approach to business starts with gaining a deep understanding of customers and markets, and using that knowledge to work with product development and marketing teams to develop differentiated offerings and marketing approaches. I am also a big supporter of customer insights research and human-centered design as a way to understand customers better.

At Winnebago, I have worked on closing 2 key acquisitions over the past couple of years, Grand Design RV and Chris-Craft. I work with the leadership and management teams to bring in a more strategic approach to business and growth. I have also led the introduction of an all-electric RV for short-range commercial applications. Digital customer engagement is an area of great passion for me.

From what I gather, Ashis is the point person from Winnebago to oversee the integration efforts with Newmar. Ashis is a peer to Matt Miller, as they both report to the Winnebago CEO.

It was interesting to me that Ashis felt compelled to speak to this group.

Don’t get me wrong. Ashis, although not as strong a communicator as Kevin or Matt, said all the right things. He came across as friendly and seemed focused on ensuring a good customer experience. But, at the end of the day, Ashis is just another MBA; a hired gun with no particular focus or passion about the RV lifestyle. He has been with Winnebago just over three years. He brings no prior experience or exposure to the RV industry. I doubt that he has ever spent any time using an RV.

Newmar is now part of a publicly traded business, accountable to shareholders. Things will change for the company. Hopefully for the better, but, knowing how public corporations work, especially those ones that are run by MBAs, I’m not so sure.

The format of the meeting was largely a Q&A session with the attendees. I did not learn much new except for Newmar’s plans to spin out a mobile service offering in a few select areas starting with Florida.

Later in the day, Lorraine and I spent time looking at the Newmar, Entegra, and Tiffin coaches. That was in between extended sessions talking with people.

In the Newmar section, we really loved the Essex. That was our favourite Newmar coach. In the Entegra section, well, let’s just say that Thor followed through on Bob Martin’s promise to decontent their high-end coaches (Bob is CEO of Thor). We would not buy an Entegra coach. Lorraine and I were really impressed with a 40-foot Tiffin Phaeton coach. Really well done with an expansive floor plan that seemed much larger than our coach. Nice bus. We also enjoyed walking through the Allegro Bus coaches.

We will be back to the show today. We will also be in a meeting with ITR, manufacturer of the OASIS heating system. I wonder if they have any spare pumps? I’ve already replaced two defective ones and I need to replace a third.

Third day dry camping. All good so far. We leave bright and early tomorrow morning.

RV SuperShow Day 1

Day 1 at the Tampa RV SuperShow done.

We spent roughly six hours at the show yesterday. A few observations to share with you.

We walked. And walked. And kept walking. Roughly 18,000 steps. By no means did we cover the entire show. If you come out to the event, be sure to bring some comfortable footwear.

We dehydrated. Unlike last year, when the temperatures were quite cool, the weather this week is quite warm. The winds were very still and it was very hot and humid yesterday. Coupled with a lot of walking and we dehydrated quickly. We will be carrying a lot more bottled water with us when we wander out today.

We kept bumping into YouTubers. My, my. They are out in full force at the show. You can easily spot them. They are the ones walking around holding a selfie stick, talking to their cameras. They have been busily posting content on their YouTube channels. Some are high profile with lots of followers, others are hoping to gain more followers. I follow most of them online. A bit odd to see them in the physical world.

Might just be my own observation, but most of the new product from the RV industry looks, well more cheaply made than before. We noticed this as we went through the various manufacturers. Even this ForeTravel at $1 million had a few misses.

I found several examples of poor quality in that coach including a badly hung door, malfunctioning cabinets, rough grout work and this screw wedged into the slide out mechanism on the floor. Not something I would expect to find in a million dollar coach.

The crowds yesterday built up around 10am and people started leaving the show in large numbers around 3pm. When Lorraine and I returned to the show late in the afternoon, the crowds had literally disappeared. That was the perfect time to walk through coaches and visit the exhibitor booths.

Aside from bumping into YouTubers, we kept bumping into fellow travellers at the show. This happened to us last year as well. We spent a fair amount of time just catching up with old friends as we walked through the show.

What did I buy? I was asked this question many, many times yesterday. Sure, there are all sorts of deals to be made at the show. But we are not here shopping. Yes, there are a few items I would like to get for the coach. We’d like a name sign. We’ve been meaning to get one made for several years now. Perhaps we will finally get one this year. I’d like to get a portable shade for the driver’s side window. The sun visor on my driver’s side window has regulatory limits which means that my arm gets scorched when driving the coach with the sun on that side. Magna Shade has a portable sunshade that you can stick to the window and it would provide better sun protection when driving while leaving the mirror still readily visible. We’d like to get some underbody LEDs to provide a glow to the coach. And a floor mat for the front cockpit. Along with a few other odds and ends. But no new coach. I did not see anything in our price range that compels me to trade in the coach. Especially now that we seem to have most of the bugs worked out.

Newmar had their executives out in full force to the show this year. Likely still trying to calm everyone down about the Winnebago acquisition. Matt Miller was quite visible and accessible at the Newmar booth yesterday. Although things seem to be pretty much the same with Newmar, I have noticed a few unique additions to the Newmar website. Like this new link in the footer section:

Well, if you are focused on producing shareholder value, I guess you need to include a link to your corporate Investor Relations page from your recent acquisition’s website.

We’ll be chatting with the Newmar execs later this morning. I expect to hear the same company line: we are still Newmar and we will still operate as we did before.

The buildings do get much busier with the warmer weather. Attendees seek refuge from the heat. We found it was best to visit the booths first thing in the morning or late in the day when the crowds have thinned.

Looking forward to spending more time at the show today.

Tampa RV SuperShow Arrival

We have arrived to the Tampa RV SuperShow.

We will soon cross the gates into the show. No particular plan. We have the next three days to take it all in. The show will attract roughly 70,000 attendees so it will start to get busy although I expect most of the crowds will be coming in on the weekend.

We, on the other hand, will be leaving first thing Saturday morning. I have band commitments this weekend and, in between attending the RV SuperShow, I will be practicing my guitar. No rest for the weary.

Here is a video of our arrival:

Quite the process. Coaches queue to enter. Coaches move to a staging area to unhook. Coaches move to a parking area. And there it is. All settled in for a few days.

We have a great spot. Wide open at the front nestled under a large tree. Cellular data is good so far allowing me to post and upload some content.

Lorraine and Tabby wandered around the Newmar campsite and, predictably, met many old friends and made many new friends. Several couples that we know from Canada are here and it was great to catch up with them.

Somewhere over 200 Newmar coaches in this area. I haven’t counted them myself but it is a pretty big gathering of fellow Newmar owners.

Power is provided by these big diesel generators strewn throughout the parking area. Only 30 amp service so we have to be mindful not to trip any breakers.

The parking is thoughtfully laid out. Although all the coaches are spaced relatively tight, it feels open.

This was one of the main parking lots last night. I suspect it might be a tad busier this morning.

Looking forward to walking through the show this morning and checking out all of the new coaches and RVs.

Tampa RV Supershow

I still haven’t been to the Tampa RV Supershow. Perhaps next year depending on our travels south.

According to RV news, the show achieved record attendance levels:

The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) enjoyed a record attendance of more than 73,000 participants at its five-day 2018 Florida RV Supershow last week.

“We experienced the perfect storm of pent-up demand, record stock market levels, low interest rates, stable gas prices and five beautiful days of weather,” said FRVTA Marketing Director David Kelly.

The Supershow’s theme was “Wherever You Roam, You’re Always at Home,” reflecting the reality that RV users can bring hunting, fishing, and camping equipment in addition to anything else their traveling companions want, and even if they move on to a new location, everything is still with them. One of the highlights was a new seminar, “RVing 101- Everything You Need to Know,” which was aimed at first-time RV buyers and tried to answer all basic consumer questions. The seminar was so popular that more chairs had to be added to the seminar area after the first session.

“We feel that the Supershow reflects the attitudes of the RV consumers nationwide as so many attendees come from all over the country,” Kelly said. “If the Supershow is any indication, the industry is on pace to set more records again this year.”

Hopefully the Goldilocks economy continues to roll along for a few more years. And hopefully there will be some sites available as all of these first-time RV buyers hit the road. We are planning to book way ahead of our travel plans just to make sure we have a good spot.

Tampa RV SuperShow

It is a big show, the Tampa RV SuperShow. And some of my family attended the show this year. They even sent us photos in front of what appeared to be a Newmar Dutch Star like our Castaway.

The Tampa Bay Times carried an article which predicted a big turnout, over 70,000 attendees.

For industry representatives like Alonso, this year’s event is shaping up to be a record breaker.

“Ever since Trump won the election, people are going crazy spending money,” Alonso said.

The event has pulled in about 63,000 people for the past two years. If the weather holds up, Dave Kelly, head of marketing for the Florida RV Trade Association, has set the ambitious goal of 70,000 attendees.

The gate was 70,528.

From RV Business:

In fact, each of the first four days set an attendance high compared to past years which, despite a Sunday (Jan. 22) storm that brought rain and wind to the show’s Tampa-based venue, resulted in an overall gate of 70,528 people – a total that eclipsed 2015’s record of 63,264 by 7,264, according to Lance Wilson, president of the host Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA).