RV Industry Report Card: Ups and Downs

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September 13, 2010 by   Comments Off on RV Industry Report Card: Ups and Downs

The future is a generally positive, albeit a mixed bag for the RV industry, the Goshen (Ind.) News reported today.

A series of recent studies, reports and projections from multiple agencies have cast that future in a hopeful but realistic light.

Industry business indicators from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) updated at the end of July projected continued growth in shipments. They also suggested recovery would be slower than what occurred following previous recessions, a hypothesis it explained as a lag in sales due to “lingering effects on the ability of consumers to purchase RVs.”

“However, the desire to own RVs is as strong as ever, with basic demand rooted in family values, the enduring appeal of the natural environment, and people’s desire to instill in the next generation their cherished tradition,” the report said.

In fact, RV ownership has reached record levels according to the RVIA, which estimates 8.3 million American households now own an RV. That number is an increase of 16% since 2001 and 64% since 1980.

Camping’s ups, downs

In the results of a study done in partnership with The Coleman Co., The Outdoor Foundation reported both ups and downs in general camping. Those results, titled “Special Report on Camping 2010,” noted that while camping participation increased from 42.4 million in 2008 to 44 million in 2009, the average camper only went camping 13.2 days in the latter year, down from a 14.1 day average in 2008.

According to the report, RV camping dropped from 16.9 million people in 2006 to 16.2 million in 2007, but surged to 17.4 million by 2009.

In comparison, backyard and car camping (defined as camping within a quarter mile of the camper’s vehicle or home) dropped from 35.6 million in 2006 to 31.4 million in 2007, rebounding only to 34.3 million by 2009.

Between 2006 and 2009, RV campers used public campsites for 62.3% of the time, private sites 32.1% of the time, event sites 3.4% of the time and backyard sites 2.2% of the time.

During that three-year span, the median age of all campers 6 years of age and older climbed from 29 to 33. In a heartening trend, 87% of all campers reported they planned to spend more time participating in outdoor activities in 2010.

A slow end to 2010

Another release from the RVIA written by University of Michigan’s Richard Curtin, published in the fall issue of Roadsigns, predicted a hiccup in shipments beginning in the final months of 2010.

Curtin suggested total shipments would reach 239,000 in 2010, slowing in the second half of the year and recovering by the end of 2011, when he estimated shipments would reach 259,600.

That rebounding is the reversal of a declining trend in RV shipments that began after 2006, when 404,600 units were shipped. The following years saw shipment levels drop to 353,400 in 2007, 237,000 in 2008 and only 165,700 in 2009. Total shipments in 2010 had already reached 155,800 by the end of July.

“RV sales face continued challenges from the slowdown in prospects for economic growth,” Curtin said. “Uncertainty about future taxes, depressed home values and tight credit conditions will restrict motorhome sales, and lackluster income growth and high unemployment will limit gains in folding camping trailers and truck camper sales.”

Curtin argued that the industry’s best way forward was not by downsizing, but rightsizing. He described rightsizing as “delivering the optimal mix of size, convenience and features to meet the new constraints facing consumers.”

“While the challenges in developing new products will be as great as the economic hurdles now facing the industry, rightsized RVs will reap the long-term payoff from consumers,” Curtin said.

$8.2 billion industry

The most recent Travel Trailer and Camper Manufacturing Industry Report from Supplier Relations U.S. LLC, reported the RV industry’s revenue for 2009 was approximately $8.2 billion, with $390.8 million in imports from 45 countries and $1.4 billion worth of exports to 160 countries, calculating total domestic demand for the industry at $7.2 billion.

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