Despite last year being the worst year for recreational vehicle sales in 18 years, industry officials are smiling on the eve of the 2010 Central Florida RV Show that starts Thursday (Feb. 18) at the Volusia County fairgrounds in DeLand, according to the Daytona Beach news-Journal.
More than 200 RV units — pop-ups to super motorcoaches — will be on display at the RV show in DeLand. Campgrounds, RV resorts, camping clubs, RV lenders, RV insurance and suppliers also will be represented. The show is sponsored by the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA).
Industry officials report they are seeing a turnaround from 2009.
Shipments of RVs from manufactures to retailers rose during the second half of the year, compared to 2008. And Snow Bird visitors to recreational vehicle parks and campgrounds are up across the Sunbelt.
“And attendance at the RV shows are up as is our walk in traffic,” said Larry McNamara, chief operating officer of Giant Recreation World with sales and service facilities in Ormond Beach, Orlando and Melbourne. “(The RV industry is) seen as a rule as an economic indicator. When things are good, sales are up. But when things are bad, it’s very bad.”
During a period of easy credit, annual RV shipments topped 311,000 units each year from 2002 through 2007, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). Shipments peaked at 390,500 units in 2006.
Shipments slipped to 237,000 in 2008.
Last year started off with only 7,300 shipped units, a monthly record low. In March, RV icons Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Monaco Coach Corp. filed for bankruptcy. Several smaller manufacturers closed their doors in late 2008 and early 2009.
The second half of the year brought some good news.
Fleetwood’s motorhome division was bought by investor American Industries Partners. Navistar International Corp. bought Monacos’ RV assets. Both will continue to be made using the well-known names.
Monthly RV sales in 2009 surpassed those of the same month in 2008 since August, but annual sales totaled only 165,700 units, down 30% from 2008.
“Manufacturers have cut their margins, reducing prices a bit,” McNamara said. “I think there is a lot of pent up spending.”
Campers are becoming active again as fuel prices level off, the stock market improves and the economy shows signs of recovery.
“Most RV parks and resorts that cater to Snow Birds are reporting higher occupancies this winter than they did last winter,” said Linda Profaizer, CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Larkspur, Colo.
Sunbelt parks are reporting increased snowbird occupancy of 10-30%, especially in Texas and Arizona. However, Equity Lifestyle Properties, the nation’s largest Sunbelt RV resort operator, reports flat Florida revenue for late 2009 and early 2010.
Bulow Plantation RV Resort in Flagler Beach as seen twice as many Snow Birds this year compared to last year, general manager Jeff Conner said.
“And we are getting calls daily from people making plans and then canceling or delaying them depending on the weather in Tennessee and the Carolinas. They’ll get here when they can get the RV out of the snow,” he said.