Organizers announced that year-over-year conference registration was up by seven percent for the 2012 Marine Dealer Conference and Expo (MDCE), held from November 11 to 14 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.
More than 900 people had pre-registered for the conference, including more than 500 dealers – said to be the highest-ever dealer attendance for MDCE.
With more than 20 educational seminars and over 183,000 square feet of exhibit space highlighting 100 sponsors and exhibitors, the 2012 conference was described as "the largest MDCE yet.'
Adaptation was a consistent theme throughout this year's event, perhaps best demonstrated by the keynote presentation by speaker Robert Stevenson who spoke at length about the need for change and new ideas, quipping "If you don't like change, you're going to hate extinction.' Stevenson illustrated his point with a reference to mass market grocer A&P, a one-time giant in the grocery business that refused to change with the times and has seen its market share evaporate.
The adaptation theme was also underscored by a presentation on changing US demographics by former US Census head Dr. Stephen Murdock. Citing Census data, Murdock projected significant changes in the US population over the next 20 years, highlighted by a shift toward lower education levels and average household incomes. Interest in projected demographic change spilled over into an Industry Leaders panel discussion, in which Dusty McCoy, Chairman and CEO of Brunswick Corp, likened the recreational boating segment to the "Republican Party of industry.' Speaking about the need to adapt to projected socio-demographic change, he said "if we continue to ignore it and don't change, we'll be in trouble.'
The conference also provided a venue to present a number of dealer awards (see Top 100 story, below). The industry adaptation theme continued as Bob Pappajohn, President of Burnaby, BC-based M&P Mercury Sales, was presented with the award for the Best Idea of the year in recognition of his dealership's efforts to grow its customer base through outreach programs specifically targeting the Chinese community through interpreters, special ambassadors and ethnically-targeted advertising.