Recreational vehicle and motorcoach sales are on an upswing in Florida’s Lee County.
The RV industry struggled through the downturn, but Tim Lowry, marketing manager for North Trail RV Center in Fort Myers, said sales are on the rise, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.
The Lee County RV dealer was hard hit in 2008, but the company started to see business pick up in the third quarter of 2009, even though about half of Florida’s RV dealers closed that year, Lowry said.
“The herd was thinned,” he said. “What happened is there was a lot of growth in the industry and the industry has always been give or take.”
Several RV manufacturers were producing very similar products and competing with each other and some dealers managed their businesses poorly, relying on sales to keep their doors open, he said.
But the big factors that drove the decline were credit availability and a drop in consumer confidence, said Kevin Broom, spokesman for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Consumer confidence, while it’s still down, it isn’t dropping any further,” Broom said.
Through September, RV manufacturers have shipped 194,000 units, an increase of 59% from the same period in 2009, according to an RV association report released this month.
The same report shows shipments for the month of September totaled 16,700 units, a decline of 4% from the same month a year ago.
North Trail RV Center has grossed $73 million year-to-date compared to $42 million for the same period a year ago, said Alan Erp, company vice president.
Erp said mid-to-high-end recreational vehicles and motorcoaches — starting at about $75,000 and peaking at about $2 million — are the vehicles that increased sales.
He attributes North Trail’s growth to sticking with or adding product lines from leading manufacturers that have survived the downturn, such as Newmar Motorhomes and Tiffin Motorhomes.
Meanwhile, Robert Kohn, an independent consultant, is working with Signature Naples Motor Coach Resort on the high-end resort’s first sales campaign, which launched Nov. 1.
“We’ve taken in 11 reservations in the first 23 days,” he said.
The resort, located at 13300 Tamiami Trail E., has 184 spaces and sits on about 23 acres of beachfront property offering boating access, beach, lake and interior sites ranging from $89,000 to $250,000.
In 2009, Sunland RV Resorts based in La Jolla, Calif., and Morgan RV Resorts based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., bought the property at the courthouse steps and paid the full purchase price of the property, which allows them to set a fair price that is still a good deal, Kohn said.
“We have an incredibly stable platform for people buying here because there is no bank debt, which means there is no gun to the head of the developer,” he said.
Sales are up for the high-end motorcoach resorts, Kohn said, because of careful financial investment. Also, there is a shortage in RV resort property as many resorts were purchased by developers in 2004 and 2005 to build homes.
North Trail RV Center also adapted to meet customer needs through the downturn as sales slowed.
North Trail converted its dealership at the Billy Creek Commerce Center to a tire and collision center offering body shop services to fix wrecked units, a 60-foot paint booth and tire balancing for trucks and motor coaches.
It also expanded its operations and opened a second dealership in Fort Lauderdale in April.
“It was a necessity if we were going to be the kind of dealership we wanted to be and that people expected us to be,” Lowry said.