Hertzke’s Mood Went From Gloom to Boom
Winnebago Industries Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Bruce Hertzke recently described to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) how his outlook for the RV market went for gloom late last year to boom this year.
In an article about big-ticket recreational products appearing in the WSJ Tuesday (Aug. 27), Hertzke described how he worried during the summer of 2001 about over-producing and that his mood became darker after the September 11 attacks.
Hertzke did not hire as many temporary college student workers as usual during the summer of 2001 and did not schedule much overtime because the economy was in recession a year-ago, he told the WSJ.
And then, around last Thanksgiving, he shutdown production for an entire week before quickly reversing himself after seeing surprisingly strong dealer demand during last year’s Louisville Show. “We went from shutdown the last week in November to overtime the first week of January,” Hertzke told the WSJ.
Winnebago has been racing to keep up with dealer and retail demand for its products since then, as indicated by the fact the company will build 11,000 motorhomes during the 12 month period that will end Saturday (Aug. 31), a 22% increase over its output total for the same period a year earlier, Hertzke said.
Winnebago also is building a new factory in Charles City, Iowa, which will open early next year and provide the company with 30% more production capacity.
In addition to Hertzke, the WSJ article includes quotes from the manufacturers of pleasure boats, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and personal watercraft. They also reported robust demand for their products despite the fact the economy is recovering “only haltingly and the stock market suffering withering declines,” according to the WSJ.
The article suggests that sales of big-ticket leisure products have remained strong due to low interest rates and the “nesting instinct” American families have exhibited since last September 11.