New MDCE dates offer opportunities for conference

The Marine Dealer Conference and Expo, which is co-produced by Boating Industry and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, will be held on Dec. 5-8 for 2016. The conference was previously held annually during the third week in November. This move is expected to benefit dealers and exhibitors alike who otherwise had conflicts attending.

Several dealers and exhibitors have already expressed happiness with the date change. For Jerry Brouwer, president of Action Water Sports, this change means having an ability to bring more staff that will be able to benefit from the educational opportunities.

“When it has been [in November], our service department is working at its peak level, and so we would diminish the ability to perform how we need to perform to attend,” said Brouwer. “It’s all hands on deck when we are in the peak of the [season]. Being seasonal, it was just tough.”

While Action Water Sports wanted to send employees because the company recognizes the importance of training, the dealership felt it was serving its customers at a lower level. Now that the conference will be held in December, attendance should thrive.

“I think moving it to [December], whether you’re in the North or the South or halfway between, everybody should be at a much lower capacity so we can attend and send more people,” Brouwer said. “We still have business and we’re working, but it’s a much more even-keeled pace. We can easily take half of our staff and have them do something, and still be able to serve our customer at a level that they’re expecting to be served.”

The new dates also free up time for businesses that have been unable to attend previously or had trouble bringing employees. The RV Dealers International Convention/Expo overlaps with the former MDCE dates, which has made it difficult for exhibitors like CDK Global Recreation that are present in both markets. However, by moving MDCE to December, the conference has positioned itself to be a priority for companies looking to offer products to dealers.

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The Marine Equipment Trade Show (METS) also runs in November, during the same week MDCE used to hold its conference. The change of dates will allow METS exhibitors to participate in both shows and better serve dealers.

“The switching of the dates is good because the conflicts that we had before made it difficult for us, because of our size, to be able to send people in multiple directions,” said Tony Barber, CEO of Smart Plug, a company that exhibits at METS. “That opens up the door and allows you to make a decision to go to the show.”

For companies that have been unable to exhibit at MDCE in the past, the new date change offers an opportunity to reach a captive, willing audience.

“One of the things I love about MDCE is the dealer groups that [attend]. They’re serious about being there and they’re not just going to shop around. The ones that come up to our booth are normally the dealer principals, the owners, the general managers. They’re the ones that come out to those shows because of the learning experiences,” said Zac Stringham, marketing manager of CDK Global Recreation, “and they’re serious about running their business. They want to learn.”

Brouwer believes the date change will allow MDCE to become a larger event and help grow the industry, as the new dates fall between the holidays and before boat show season.

“I think this is going to be very well received by the industry,” said Brouwer. “I think it’s going to found that [the new date range] is the sweet spot to maximize the attendance.”

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