MRAA show attendance expected to almost triple

LAS VEGAS – Phil Keeter estimates that 450 to 500 marine retailers will be in attendance during the 2004 Marine Retailers Association of America Convention, which kicked off last night and runs through the end of the day Thursday.

During an interview yesterday, the MRAA president said that would be almost triple the number of attendees at last year’s event.

“It indicates that people want to support MRAA and industry initiatives,” he stated. “We’re building toward something really big.”

While the estimate falls short of MRAA’s larger goal of attracting 1,000 dealers, Keeter pointed out that those participating in MRAA Challenge 1,000 made a three-year commitment. If his estimates are correct, this year’s increase will represent significant progress toward that goal.

“The people that come for the first time this year will tell others,” comments Keeter.

Speakers offer expertise from other industries

One change attendees can expect this year is a number of speakers from outside the industry, rather than the Shirtsleeve Sessions of last year’s event. Keeter said that was one of the requests attendees made last year.

Ken Schmidt of Harley Davidson is one such example. He kicked off the convention last night with the story of the motorcycle manufacturer’s turnaround. Schmidt highlighted the role of Harley’s dealers in that turnaround, advising marine dealers in the audience to turn their facilities into destinations, exceed the expectations of their customers and sell the dream, rather than the product.

Another example is Bob Williams, who will give a presentation on Chrysler’s Five-Star Dealer Program on Wednesday.

Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association President Mike Molino will also be on hand to speak about the importance of national organizations.

Dealers show support for Grow Boating

During this year’s convention, National Marine Manufacturers Association President Thom Dammrich will give a presentation intended to update dealers on the progress being made on the industry’s Grow Boating initiative.

Many dealers are already big supporters of the concept, according to Keeter. In fact, in a Spader 20 Group meeting yesterday, dealers expressed a desire to see the surcharge be raised.

“They want it to happen as soon as possible and be as effective as possible,” Keeter explains.

– Liz Walz

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