Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. conducted a survey of 125 RV dealers to assess recent trends during the first quarter. The following offers a summary of the results.
Retail mixed as early spring drives traffic. Traffic was strong as mild winter drove customers to the lot earlier. Retail was mixed, however, with double-digit growth in towables muted by motorhome declines. Inventory is healthy, with fewer dealers concerned about stocking levels heading into the selling season.
• Mild winter drives traffic. Traffic was strong throughout Q1, according to dealers, supported by a milder winter and early start to spring. Retail remained mixed, with growth in towables (+10-12%) and declines (-2-4%) in motorhomes.
• Inventory remains lean. Dealers report 103 days of towable inventory (down from 109 days last year) and 102 days of motorhome inventory (down from 118 last year). Recall, many dealers were concerned with inventory heading into 2012, having stocked up during the early fall promotions. Currently, just 18% of motorhome dealers and 26% of towable dealers consider inventory “too high.”
• Dealer sentiment improving. Sentiment among dealers improved again, hitting 61 in our survey of current conditions (50 is neutral) – the highest reading in six years of tracking the metric. The improved attitude is probably attributable to better consumer confidence, lower unemployment and a good start to the season, supported by better weather.
• Financing stable. Credit availability is largely unchanged. Customers with good credit scores don’t have trouble obtaining financing, but higher credit risks are still difficult to get financed. Many dealers are concerned about wholesale financing, and are frustrated with lack of availability and competition.
• Outlook. The RV stocks ran up in late 2011 and early 2012, but have pulled back in recent days as part of a broader market correction.
Note: Contact your Baird representative for a complete copy of the 40-page dealer survey.