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Final Hershey Show Attendance is Nearly 60,000

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September 17, 2018 by   Leave a Comment

RVs filled the Giant Center for this year’s Hershey Show

America’s Largest RV Show, Sept. 12-16 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa., tallied a final gate attendance of almost 60,000 people, about 5,000 off of last year’s record-setting totals. But most exhibitors came away from the annual trade-and-retail exposition pretty impressed with the pace of sales and the crowds in general despite the looming prospect of impact from Hurricane Florence.

Hosted by the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association (PRVCA), the “Hershey Show” featured 156 booth vendors and about 1,400 RVs from 42 manufacturers encompassing more than 1 million square feet of display space in and round the Giant Center complex.

After a sluggish start, PRVCA Executive Director Heather Leach told RVBUSINESS.com that the “weekend was really good” with 20,000 people on Saturday and almost 9,000 on Sunday. “For the whole show we had 59,163 – and we’ll take it,” Leach said.

“You know, we tried to control the weather but there are just some things that are out of our control,” she continued. “Last year we had perfect weather all five days and this year I’m sure there were people who didn’t come because of the threat of the hurricane – or they couldn’t come because they were being evacuated. Even with that, the weather held up pretty well. There were some drizzles here and there, but for the most part it was decent. So, yeah, we were down a little bit attendance-wise from last year, but the right people attended. Everyone I talked to said they had good sales.”

Indeed, RVBUSINESS.com spoke to a number of manufacturers and dealers who reported good business despite lighter traffic than last year’s attendance:

Keystone RV President Jeff Runels: “All things considered, retail sales were good. Last year our top brands, our Montanas and Cougars, had a record show. This year, they did well, but they didn’t quite keep up with last year. Relative to their space in the industry we think they still won.

“But the bigger takeaway was that we sold more consistently from top to bottom. We had pretty good numbers on every single brand we showed from toy haulers to lightweights to sticks (stick-and-tin towables) to full-size, regardless of whether they were new or old (2018 or 2019) models. So, I would say that consistency is the big takeaway.”

And, he agreed, it was an affirmation of sorts that the market remains pretty strong. “Absolutely,” he said, adding that news reports on Hurricane Florence were clearly a factor, especially among people from neighboring states who generally attend September’s Hershey Show. “You know, that show will bring people in from three states in every direction and they (Keystone’s product managers) felt like it was more localized this year.”

The line to enter the Hershey Show stretched across the bridge

Camper’s Inn RV Chief Operating Officer Ben Hirsch: “It was a good show for us. Overall, I’d say our business was strong and that we were happy with the show. I did notice some light traffic on some days, but I don’t think it was anything crazy. The consensus was the weather and the hurricane certainly were affecting some people and preventing them from coming, but it didn’t stop us from having an exceptional show. I really can’t complain.”

Camper’s Inn represented lines from Cruiser RV, Heartland RV, Prime Time, Coachmen, REV Group and Forest River, Hirsch noted, and brought about 80 total personnel from management, sales, service, parts and support staff to the Hershey Show.

At the same time, Hirsch noted he was just as concerned about several of the dealership’s stores that were impacted by Hurricane Florence. Camper’s Inn has three locations in North Carolina, another in South Carolina and two others in Virginia.

“A lot of our employees and their family members are affected. As a family-owned company, we certainly understand the situation and are being as helpful as we can,” Hirsch said. “But, all in all, our stores are doing okay. We had someone check them out and there’s some light damage and water here and there, but for the most part we were petty lucky. All of our stores will be open this week.”

Heartland RV Vice President of Sales and Marketing Coley Brady: Benefitting from a high-traffic location coupled with a strong product mix on display by dealers, Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC also experienced strong sales in Hershey that the Thor division projected will top last year’s numbers.

“This year we shifted up some of the products with our different dealers,” reported Brady. “We also showed several new product introductions that consumers were seeing for the first time which were very well received. We’re looking forward to see an extension of that at Open House.

“Overall, it was a great show for Heartland,” he added. “Importantly, I feel we were able to grab additional market areas in key product categories.”

According to Brady, Heartland’s toy haulers were “the highlight” as far as gains, while luxury fifth-wheels and the builder’s trailer brands also performed well. “I really felt we had outstanding results across the board,” he said.

Travel Lite RV Vice President Eric Burns: Lightweight travel trailer and truck camper builder Travel Lite RV also saw steady traffic flow that, according to Burns, resulted in a 400% retail gain compared with last year’s Hershey Show.

“We were very pleased with sales and once we saw the final outcome we were very excited for Open House,” he said. “I can’t speak for overall attendance but the amount of people checking out our products was at an all-time high.”

Burns related that while sales were up across the board, the strongest area for Travel Lite was the company’s truck camper lines, particularly models designed to be towed by half-ton pickups. 

“Our half-ton compatible campers really got a lot of attention,” he said. “We’re the only company that makes a truck camper that can go right into the bed of a half-ton truck without adding other accessories to accommodate the weight. We’ve really been seeing strong market gains in that category.

“I think another feature that set us apart is that we have four different color schemes. The standard in the industry has been white but we offer colors that will match colors being offered on today’s half-ton trucks.”  

Winnebago Industries Inc. Vice President and General Manager of Motorhome Business Brian Hazelton: “I thought it was good. I was out there for two days, and I thought the traffic from everyone I talked to in our group was up for last year – a lot of good activity. So, we were happy with how the show went for us, the retails that we saw. It seemed that everybody was in a very positive mood. Now I wasn’t out there for the weekend, but I heard the traffic on the weekend increased. And we had great interest in a lot of the products that we had there. So, I was happy with it.”

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