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Industry panel highlights Chaparral and Robalo dealer meeting

The theme of Chaparral and Robalo’s recent dealer meeting was “A Conference Like No Other,” and it seemed to live up to that idea with a fishing tournament, parties, new model unveilings and a “Presidents Panel” featuring presidents from various areas of the marine industry.

The panel included National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas president Matt Gruhn, Volvo Penta of the Americas president Ron Huibers, Mercury Marine president Mark Schwabero, Yamaha Marine Group president Ben Speciale and GE Commercial Distribution Finance Marine Group president Bruce Van Wagoner.

“They were all presidents of their respective organizations and they had never been on a panel all together before,” Chaparral president Jim Lane told Trade Only Today. “They had all been on panels at different times, but never all together. When Ann [Baldree, vice president] and I worked on how to put the panel together, those were all logical choices due to reputation and status within the industry.”

Topics discussed included right-sizing inventory dealer levels, future interest rates, Grow Boating funding, changing demographics, sterndrive sales increases, the importance of boat shows, the role of the Internet in consumers’ buying cycles, customer satisfaction and the necessity for political involvement in the industry on the local, state and national levels.

“We have several dealers who are very active through the MRAA, so they really enjoyed this unique opportunity,” Baldree told Trade Only. “We targeted some specific directives. We didn’t want it to be totally high-level and totally industry-driven. We wanted it to be targeted to our segment, and how we were doing within our segment of our industry. There were some really interesting takeaways from those guys, based on some very targeted, specific questions we gave them.”

Dealers learned, for example, that they were stocking inventory at the right levels and learned specifically how each sale contributed to the Grow Boating fund.

Four leading Chaparral dealers spoke, as well. Johnny Padgett, of Nodern Marine in Nashville, Tenn., spoke to earning and retaining exceptional consumer satisfaction feedback. Phillip Foss, of Destin Sunrise Marine in Mary Esther, Fla., addressed the topic of profiting from nationally advertised boats. Gary Nichols, of Nichols Marine in Monkey Island, Okla., spoke about making boat show investments pay. David Lowman, of The Boat Rack in Sherrills Ford, N.C., discussed brand focus and leading in market share.

“Each of these dealers that spoke had a very interesting message to give to the rest of the dealer base,” Lane said.

The conference, attended by nearly 500 dealers, wasn’t all presentations and parties.

Chaparral and Robalo displayed more than 20 boats at the conference. New in the water this year were the Chaparral H2O 21 and the 307. Robalo debuted the R206 Cayman and the R222, both part of a new series.

— Reagan Haynes

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