The ongoing legal dispute between Chicago-based mega-dealer Camping World Inc. and well known Seffner, Fla.-based retailer Lazy Days RV Center Inc. was played out in stark relief this past weekend (Nov. 2-4) in front of exhibitors and consumers who converged in some 3,375 rigs at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway for the Good Sam Rally hosted by Camping World affiliate Good Sam Enterprises LLC.
Claiming to have been spurned as an exhibitor after years of rally participation, Lazydays CEO Randy Lay and staff opted to set up a display with some 55 new and used towable and motorized units in a campground outside the Speedway’s third turn – a display promoted with an offer of free camping by a banner-toting aircraft, leaflets, radio advertising along with an email and social media campaign.
The whole scene, which drew plenty of attention among industry observers, took place about 110 miles east of Lazydays’ Tampa-area dealership, which was billed as America’s largest single-site dealership for years until its acquisition two years ago of the former Beaudry facility in Arizona.
Lay, for his part, claims the remote display resulted in plenty of consumer traffic for Lazydays, despite the fact that the retailer was denied access to the rally grounds by Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Camping World, with whom Lazydays has been fighting a turf war of sorts for several months in the Florida market over an array of issues.
“I was there a couple of hours Saturday with the guys, and there were quite a few people there, quite a few happy new and returning customers,” said Lay, adding that about 100 rig owners took Lazydays up on its free camping offer. “So, yeah, the traffic was good. We went down there with a reasonable array of new and used towable and motorized product. The new stuff that we brought down were units that we could bring down, given our territory limitations, and on used (units), obviously, you can bring whatever you’d like. So, it was a nice mix of new and used products.”
While Camping World Chairman Marcus Lemonis was unavailable for comment, Lay claims that Lazydays was essentially unwelcome at the Good Sam Rally.
“Well, yes, despite what Camping World and Good Sam have said in the media about the rallies being open and being Switzerland (neutral) – that just didn’t turn out to be the case,” said Lay, whose dealership participated at Good Sam’s booming Phoenix rally this past spring. “It was made pretty clear to us through a number of channels that we would not be welcome. So, we decided that under those circumstances, we would just put on our own event so that we could be there for our customers.
“If our customers weren’t there and if our customers didn’t want to see us, obviously, there was no reason to be there,” said Lay, who had served as the dealership’s CFO since 2007 before succeeding John Horton as CEO in early October. “But our customers wanted to see us and wanted us to be there and we weren’t going to let a little thing like that get between us and our customers.”