The recreational vehicle industry is on the road to recovery, said Southwest Florida dealers and other merchants at the annual Fort Myers RV Show that kicked off Thursday (Jan. 19), according to a report in the Fort Myers News-Press.
The show, which continues through Sunday, features several hundred RVs ranging from $9,000 folding tent-campers to motor coaches with price tags of $500,000 or more. Over four days organizers expect 12,000 to 14,000 to attend.
Nationally, the past five years have been rocky, with the recession and volatile gasoline prices. Now, signs are that pent-up demand for RVs is fueling a modest resurgence in sales, both at RV shows and at dealerships.
First-day show attendance “was very good,” said Chris Morse, sales manager for the Skip Eppers RV dealership on U.S. 41 just north of the Lee County line.
“And it’s not just people kicking the tires and taking brochures: It’s people who are truly interested in buying,” Morse said.
As of late Thursday afternoon, Morse’s team had sold three of the 18 or so RVs at the show. And, because many of the visitors were from Southwest Florida environs, Morse expects several others will ultimately purchase RVs from the dealership.
The other encouraging trend, Morse noted: “About half the people we saw want to trade up.”
Through the first 11 months of 2011, RV manufacturers shipped 235,400 units, an increase of 5.1% over the same period last year.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) estimates that 8.9 million American households, or about 8.5% of the population, own RVs.
They include full-time RVers such as Ralph and Ann Counts, who winter in their bus conversion at Sabal Palm Park in Palmdale, and then head to other destinations in the summer, with a motorcycle and pop-up trailer.
“It’s entertaining. I usually pick up a few things that make us more comfortable,” said Ann Counts, as she and husband Ralph waited in line to pay admission.
Ralph Counts, who owned an industrial supply business before retiring, tried his hand at bus conversions in the mid-1990s, “but the market wasn’t there.”