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North Florida RV/Boat Dealers Look for Upturn

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June 1, 2010 by   Leave a Comment

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer tourist season, and businesses that serve vacationers have high hopes for this year. That includes boat and RV dealers who have been among the hardest hit by the poor economy.  North Florida’s Bay County dealers say business is picking up and they’re optimistic that inventory will continue to leave their showrooms and sales lots, according to WMBB-TV, Panama City, Fla.

March shipments of RVs to America’s dealers were the highest in nearly two years, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). It’s good news for an industry that saw a 30% decrease in 2009 and Bay County dealers hope it means they’ve turned a corner.

RV Connections on US Highway 231 reports a recent increase in sales, especially among older buyers. But the high demand of just four years ago seems a distant memory.

“The days of working maybe 4-5 days and making a good living (are over),” said  salesman Butch Stewart. “Now you have to get ‘em all in to make the sales that you need.”

Meanwhile, nationwide boat sales rose a modest 3% in the first quarter according to boatingindustry.com, which tracks dealer activity. At Gulf Marine in Panama City, average prices are down $8,000-$10,000 and the dealership no longer stocks boats in the $40,000-$70,000 price range.

During tough economic times, buyers often look for used units because they’re more affordable. “If we can get the used boats, they sell very quickly,” says Rick Johnson of Gulf Marine. “If it stays 48 hours on the lot, that’s really rare.”

The Quick family — Dale, Lashonda and Destiny — is in the market for a used boat. They’ve spent the past couple of weeks shopping and comparing prices … and the past couple of years waiting for the right time to buy. “It’s more or less just saving,” says Mr. Quick. “It (the economy) is getting a little better it seems.”

So, as the economy goes … so goes the fate of those who sell big-ticket toys. These are their make-or-break days and they hope sales heat up along with the temperatures.

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