Winnebago On Fortune’s ‘Fastest Growing’ List
Consider the Winnebago. Just five years ago, the brontosaurus of consumer vehicles looked as if it might be on the point of extinction, Fortune magazine reported. Sales had been sliding for several years before plunging off a precipice as the financial crisis deepened into a global recession in 2009.
That year Winnebago Industries tallied $211 million in sales, less than a fifth of the 2004 figure. The whole recreational vehicle (RV) industry appeared to be wheezing toward its demise. In what seemed like seconds, 20 players closed or were acquired.
That’s why it’s so surprising to see Winnebago on Fortune’s list of Fastest-Growing Companies — it’s No. 56 in 2014 — for the second year in a row. (Or perhaps not so surprising, as we’ll see.) Sales have come roaring back with the recovery — to $803 million last year, and $884 million in the most recent four quarters — though not yet to their peak a decade ago. The company’s market share has surged from 17.2% to 20.3% in the 12 months that ended in May, according to data provider Statistical Surveys Inc. (Thor Industries is No. 1 with 24.6%.)
It would be easy to dismiss this as the latest boomlet in an industry famous for its cycles, were it not for a demographic tidal wave—the so-called silver tsunami—that has already begun: The retirement of America’s 76 million baby boomers. The largest group of U.S. retirees in history has entered its prime RV-buying years, and Winnebago thinks it has precisely the right mix of nostalgia, adventure, and cushy comfort they’re yearning for.
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