September '15

Issue link: http://read.uberflip.com/i/563336

Contents of this Issue


Page 66 of 143

rv-pro.com SEPTEMBER 2015 • RV PRO • 55 see what we can do.' Now I know more about RV stuff than I ever cared to." Over the history of Open House Week, the Hall of Fame has become more of a centralized location for manufacturers. Difficulties with leasing commercial property along County Road 6, as well as parking and liability issues, have led most manufacturers to look to locate near the Hall. Knowing the hassles manufacturers faced elsewhere, Letherman says his goal is to make the leasing process as easy as possible for his company's property. "The process is pretty simple and I've learned this from working with the guys in the RV industry: Keep it easy," he says. "This is the location. This is the size. This is the price. Now that I've taken care of everybody from last year, it's a first- come, first-served basis. There's no nego- tiating. It's just pick your spot and cut me a check. I'll send you a lease and we go from there. It's actually pretty easy. I know from the responses I've got from people over the years, it's a heck of a lot easier than going to the big shows." He also says he takes care of contracts for generators and tents and portable restrooms and has plans this year to offer wireless Internet service on the grounds. DeHoff says working with Letherman to get a piece of property at County Roads 6 and 17 last year helped result in his company's prime spot this year. "He likes working with us," DeHoff says. "At the first opportunity he said, 'Let me know if you want to be at the same spot you were last time. You have first shot to pick any lot in that area you were last year or I've got this new spot with eight spots and you can pick any spot you want.' Once we picked, every- body else picked, so it was really nice." Letherman charges the smaller manu- facturers between $5,000 and $15,000 for smaller lots. He declined to disclose what he charges for the larger lots that this year are taken by Jayco, Gulf Stream, Allied Rec, Grand Design and EverGreen. Companies still have other options for prime locations, however. Gary Price's Superior Space has about 9 acres of space at 53111 County Road 15 that fronts County Road 6 between the Dynamax plant and the Hall of Fame. In past years, tenants of that space have included KZ (before it was bought by Thor) and Trail Manor. As of press time, Canterbury and Sylvansport were the only confirmed manufacturers on the site. "We're going on our fifth year," Price says. "KZ was there the first three. I've had a couple of calls from people who lost space elsewhere because buildings changed hands and things like that. Everybody likes the idea of being down there with Thor. In my mind, that kind of takes away from your brand, but maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way. I know they're looking for traffic. It's a little tougher to pull them into our property unless you have good signage. K-Z did an excellent job. They always had great shows there, so we were sad to lose them." Open House is Big Business Though companies may have differing Open House results based on location and signage, among other factors, there is no denying the economic impact the event has on both the area and the manufacturers. The event already competes with the RV Industry Association's National RV Show in Louisville, Ky., in terms of money changing hands. DeHoff says that in three short years the event has taken a prominent place in Little Guy's sales calendar. "Orders are actually about dead even between Louisville and Elkhart," he says. "We get so far booked out on T@bs that if a dealer comes by and orders a T@b, we're booked out until the third week of November. By the time we get to Open House we're going to probably be in the February range and when we get into Louisville it's going to be right around springtime. Both shows are per- fect because dealers coming to Elkhart are going to want to get stuff in for their really early shows and then when they come back and see us in Louisville they're going to want to place a bunch of orders for spring. How far booked out we get, they both work perfect for us because they are kind of the prime ordering spots." And for a city like Elkhart – which is renowned for its manufacturing base but isn't exactly a tourism hotbed – the eco- nomic impact of hundreds of RV dealers from all over the country coming in for a visit can't be overstated. "The whole economy gets a shot in the arm," Letherman says. "Now it's bigger than any Notre Dame home game event." That translates into booked hotel rooms and full restaurants for the com- munity (see Figure 1). Still, Letherman acknowledges the importance of the Louisville show to the RV industry as a whole. "We're not trying to put Louisville out of business," he says, "we're just trying to do what we feel is right and that Elkhart should have a big show because 80 per- cent of the industry is in Elkhart." Figure 1 Hotel Room Rentals in Elkhart County: Open House vs. Notre Dame Football 5,891 4,133 Rooms Rented for Open House (Sept. 15-17) Rooms Rented for Notre Dame/Stanford Game (Oct. 3-4) Source: Smith Travel Research 0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,000

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

view archives of RV PRO - September '15