Expert Panel Addresses 30th FRVTA Meeting
More than 250 Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) members gathered Sept. 9-12 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the association as well as the 100-year anniversary of the RV Industry at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Spa in Kissimmee-Orlando.
“We recognize these past few years have been tough for all businesses, and particularly the RV Bbusiness,” explained Lance Wilson, FRVTA executive director. “By giving attendees a comprehensive overview of business trends, we hoped to prepare members on what to expect in the coming year so they can be prepared.”
As part of the preparation strategy, the FRVTA assembled a panel that featured representatives from all aspects of the RV Industry.
- Mark Beecher of Bank of the West explained how and why the banks lost money, and how various government programs are affecting the banking industry. He said higher savings rates are good, but it also means people are not spending as they normally would, particularly now with interest rates at historic low levels.
- Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), explained that, with the exception of campgrounds along the Gulf Coast oil spill area, most RV parks are doing much better than a year ago. And, although there are fewer families camping now due to the economy, those who are camping are staying longer than before. She also said that lodging rentals, which includes park trailers, cabins and yurts, are a new growth market for campgrounds and could lead to future purchases of an RV. Condo conversions of parks also are on the rise, she said.
- Rick Horsey, chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Education Foundation board as well as owner of Park View RV in Delaware, spoke about dealer inventory levels, wholesale and retail financing of RV products, the effects of both national and state legislation and the continuing educational services provided by the RV Learning Center. He also stressed the importance of dealers and others to participate in the national Go RVing program to obtain sales leads and increase the overall awareness of RVing.
- Bob Morter, a veteran of NTP Distribution, said the parts and service business has been greatly affected by the closing of RV dealerships. Additionally, due to the economy, consumers are keeping their units longer, which requires dealers to stock the proper parts necessary for service and upgrades. On a positive note, he said dealers should command higher prices for services and upgrades given that many customers are reluctant to trade and/or purchase a new unit.
- Doug Gaeddert, a general manager of several Forest River Inc. product lines, stressed dealer education and praised the FRVTA for enacting its nationally recognized Distance Learning Network, which is free to FRVTA members. Gaeddert said 2010 is better than previous years, and he doesn’t think there will be a double dip recession. He also believes that demographics are on the side of the RV industry. Gaeddert informed the audience that Forest River has recently increased unit production and believes the wholesale and retail selling numbers will be much closer in 2011 than in the past. He stressed that turning dealer inventory is critical and that dealers should have an inventory replacement plan in place since many manufacturers have scaled back production levels due to the economy.
- Bob Parrish, vice president of GE Capital, used RVIA’s “Snapshot” of the RV Industry Health to review dealer inventory levels. The statistics showed how dealer inventory fell from 2006’s storm enhanced levels of $5.3 billion down to 2009’s level of $1.6 billion. He showed how dealers also reacted to consumer buying power by offering less expensive inventory, going from an average sale in 2006 of $41,500 down to $30,752 in 2009. Now, Parrish said, bankrupt manufacturing inventory has been sold off, dealer margins are improving and inventory/production levels have been right-sized. He stressed that dealers need to manage their businesses with today’s best practices and pick good strategic partners to ensure success. He also said financial transparency will continue to be a requirement going forward.
FRVTA is already making plans for its 2011 convention, scheduled for Sept. 8-11 at Harbor Beach Marriott in Fort Lauderdale.