MDCE 2012 VIDEO: Interview with the MRAA president

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The industry’s dealers are coming back, and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas wants to provide them with the education they need to succeed and bridge the gap between them and manufacturers, the president of the association told Soundings Trade Only on Monday.

“We have a lot of new opportunities and resources for dealers,” Matt Gruhn said during the largest-ever Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, which opened Monday morning. “The dealers have noticed. Our individual memberships are up 150 percent since February alone.”

The association co-produces the show with Boating Industry magazine. The more than 500 dealers registered for the conference represent the highest-ever dealer attendance for the conference, which runs through Wednesday at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center.

Click play for an interview with Gruhn.

“The industry saw about a 35 percent decline in dealers since 2007-08,” Gruhn said. “The recession hit them hard, but now we are in a situation where the number of dealers has decreased, but the industry is seeing a growth of 10 percent, so that growth is spread across fewer dealers.”

Gruhn pointed out that the association held its first-ever strategic planning meeting this year.

“We’re getting the message out about what we have to offer,” he said. “We have a strong 3- to 5-year plan. The dealer is the critical link that makes this industry go. They are selling the boats and servicing the boats, and we view our role as the entity that needs to contribute to their success. We are providing the resources and education and opportunities and whatever else we can do to strengthen the dealers’ interaction with the end user.”

Education remains the key to the association’s success, and much of that education is delivered at the conference and expo. The dealer conference features 22 educational sessions organized into three tracks: sales and marketing, powering profits, and service and marina.

Gruhn said one of the popular seminars will be done this afternoon by sought-after service department trainer Valerie Ziebron, the best-reviewed MDCE speaker in 2010. On Wednesday morning, attendees can learn how to boost repeat business with noted Harley-Davidson dealer consultant Sam Dantzler, said Gruhn.

The MRAA president is also excited about a get-together of young professionals tonight. “We really need to gather our young people and show them support and help them network,” he said. “That is what this event will be all about.”

— Chris Landry

Twitter @CPLandry

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