The Atlantic City Fall RV Show, which took place last weekend at the Atlantic City Convention Center, ended the 2010 RV season on a high note, according to a news release from Affinity Events, the show sponsor.
During the RV industry’s 100th anniversary, attendance and sales were up, providing excitement and encouragement for the upcoming 2011 season.
“With the spectacular end-of-season sale prices and renewed interest in RVing, attendance was up 56% at this year’s show,” said Harry Lutz, show manager. “People of all ages came to the show ready to buy, whether continuing the RV lifestyle tradition or entering the market for the first time. This gives us great confidence that the industry is on the upswing.”
Hitch RV saw an encouraging change at the show. “The overall sentiment among buyers was not waiting or holding off this year,” said Tim Walters, owner. “We were able to work with attendees on the spot, resulting in increased sales from the previous year’s show.”
The RV industry expects to see continued growth in 2011, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The RVIA recently reported that the desire to own RVs is as strong as ever, according to Richard Curtin, RV industry analyst and director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan. In fact, Curtin forecasts that 2011 RV shipments will increase 8.2% from this year’s total, projected to be up 44.8% from 2009.
Current RV travel trends contributing to the industry’s growth include an array of product choices from manufacturers, such as energy-efficient green technologies, and the value ownership is providing for families. Reservations in 2010 at RV parks and campgrounds have increased 5-10% since 2009, as families are able to take more mini-vacations, accommodating busy schedules and saving on travel costs. An increase in baby-boomers, the age range with the highest RV ownership, in addition to the rising interest of young buyers with products such as sports-utility RVs, attest to this positive outlook for the upcoming season.
“Affinity Events was pleased that sales activity was strong at the last RV sale of the year,” said Jeff Haughton, vice president of Affinity Events. “This is a great sign for the industry as a whole in 2011. Family fun and outdoor adventure in an RV is a priority in America and will continue to grow in 2011.”
Affinity Events will kick off the 2011 spring show season during the first week of January in Greensboro, N.C., with the 22nd Annual North Carolina RV & Camping Show.
Between January and April of 2011, RV enthusiasts across the country will have the opportunity to attend one of 18 RV shows from Affinity Events. For information on all upcoming RV shows from Affinity Events, exhibitor lists and discounted online tickets to the shows, visit the
Affinity Events website at www.agievents.com.
Affinity Events is a division of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), which owns and operates recreation-focused consumer shows throughout North America. The division currently produces shows serving the RV, boat, snowmobile, ATV, home and garden, and ice fishing markets. AGI is the nation’s largest provider of outdoor clubs, services, media and events that service the safety, security, comfort and convenience needs of the North American RV and outdoor enthusiast market. AGI also is the parent company of RVBUSINESS.com.
The recreational vehicle is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and it’s clear the allure of the RV and its lifestyle has barely wavered, if not considerably grown, as shown by the atmosphere Saturday at the 17th Annual Atlantic City Fall RV Show at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
Crowds walked the nearly dozen rows of RVs to tour the inside and outside of modest travel trailers to larger fifth-wheel campers to massive motorhomes that rival a city bus, the Press of Atlantic City reported.
With amenities such as flat-screen televisions, dual recliners, bunk beds and interior and exterior kitchens, modern RVs far from resemble the earliest versions.
The first RV was Pierce-Arrow’s Touring Landau, according to a Smithsonian.com article, and debuted at Madison Square Garden in 1910. The lengthy Landau included a backseat that unfolded into a bed, a chamber pot toilet and a sink.
The increased popularity of automobiles, improved roadways and the opportunity to explore fueled the creation of the RV industry.
Those concepts and others is what Jack Berry, a resident from the Scullville area of Egg Harbor Township, enjoys about owning a 34-foot travel trailer.
“Getting away to spend time with the family and it’s always affordable,” said Berry, who was at the show with his family.
He said they have traveled to New Hampshire and Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and everything in between. The family likes the ability to take trips and not have to worry about things such as hotel reservations, he said.
Tom Norman, a 44-year RV veteran, loathes hotel rooms.
“It’s a certain comfort level to have your own surroundings,” said Norman, a resident of Branchburg, Somerset County.
He currently has a 27-foot trailer and was looking for a 22-foot motorhome but was unable to locate anything he liked at the show.
Norman, for one, isn’t entirely interested in the endless comforts available in the newer model RVs.
“Some of the older trailers had a wider, smarter use of space,” Norman said. “Today, they try to squeeze so much into one package.”
Jeff Bitter, of Driftwood RV in Atlantic and Cape May counties, said the transformation of RVs to include luxurious and technological features from when they were metal cylinder campers is simply progress.
“We have things we didn’t conceive (of) years ago,” Bitter said.
Bitter, who lives in Galloway Township, has owned an RV as long as he has been married – 32 years – and currently has a fifth-wheel trailer that measures 37 feet and contains an electric fireplace and washer and dryer.
“It’s like a second home,” Bitter said. “It doesn’t lack anything.”
The Atlantic City show, which concluded on Sunday (Nov. 14) was produced by Affinity Events, sister company to RVBUSINESS.com.
The recreational vehicle industry’s long road to recovery stops in Atlantic City, N.J., for a major show this weekend at the Atlantic City Convention Center, following a devastating recession that hit the housing market, the automobile business and the industry that’s a little bit of both.
Vacations on wheels, RVs’ roots are anchored throughout southern New Jersey’s tourism industry, the Press of Atlantic City reported.
Some companies, such as Driftwood RV in Cape May and Atlantic counties, reported strong sales in 2010 after a slump last year and say they fared relatively well in the recession.
Others, such as Bridgeton Travel Trailer on Route 49 in Cumberland County, could not survive the drop. The business is selling its remaining stock and will close soon, said Donald Olbrich Jr., 24, a sales manager who has worked at the family business since he was a teenager.
“When it first started, we didn’t think it would last that long,” said Olbrich, whose family business once had 14 employees but is now down to him and his mother. “It was just going on longer than we thought, and we just can’t do it anymore.”
The national Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reports the RV industry has seen a comeback in 2010 after about two years of declines as consumers changed spending habits and the credit crunch impaired potential buyers from getting financing.
RV manufacturers have shipped 194,000 units through September, a 59% increase from that time frame last year, according to the RVIA. The year-end increase over 2009 is expected at about 45%. A unit shipped is one way the industry measures growth and declines.
But the drops in the two previous years were significant as the economy soured: 2008 saw a 33% drop in RVs that manufacturers shipped from the year before. In 2009, shipments dropped another 30%, according to the RVIA.
The credit crunch affected people’s abilities to get loans, as well as some dealers themselves getting financing for their floor plans, said Kevin Broom, RVIA spokesman.
The drop was in stark contrast to years from 2002 to 2006 — five consecutive years of growth, Broom said.
The industry started to rebound near the end of 2009, he said.
Nationally, the RV industry is projected to increase next year, shipping 259,600 units in 2011, but the recovery is likely to be slower than in previous downturns amid changes in consumer habits and spending, according to a forecast by industry analyst Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan.
“There’s definitely a rebound at this point as it relates to the industry,” said Harry Lutz, show manager for the annual Atlantic City Fall RV Show this weekend. “The banks are starting to be more proactive in lending.”
RVs have a strong base in southern New Jersey, the site of most of the state’s campgrounds that cater to weeklong summer tourists and seasonal visitors.
Earle Humphries, 70, owns Atlantic Cape RV in Galloway Township. Humphries hopes to see a resurgence in RV sales for his business in 2011.
“It’s getting a little easier now, but it’s just been very hard to get the people to say yes because they’re so afraid they’re going to lose their job and there’s a lot of people getting out of the RV lifestyle for a while until things turn around,” Humphries said.
The desire for people to buy recreational vehicles for the open road or for seasonal campgrounds did not go away during the recession, according to local dealers.
At Driftwood RV, sales have been strong recently, said John Worthington, director of marketing.
The company, which has locations in Dennis Township and Egg Harbor Township as well as two campgrounds in Cape May County, specializes in park model trailers that are placed at seasonal campgrounds.
Worthington said Driftwood fared better than some other RV dealers in the down economy but felt the impacts too.
“We’re having a great year now and hopefully we’ll have a great finish,” Worthington said. “Sometimes people need to put off their dreams a little, but they always have them. It’s the dream of family time and vacation. People put them off, but they’re always close to the surface.”
Meanwhile, consumers have been leaning more toward travel trailers — those RVs that are towed behind pickup trucks and SUVs, Broom said.
What had represented about 80% of the market half a decade ago now represents more than 90% of the market, Broom said. The travel trailers generally cost less, are easier to get financing for and are available to a mass market already owning SUVs and pickup trucks, Broom said.
Smaller, lighter and more environmentally friendly and energy efficient RVs — including those with solar panels — have also been popular, dealers said.
The show is sponsored by Affinity Events. Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) is the parent company of Affinity Events and RVBUSINESS.com.
The thing you have to realize about RVing is that it’s all about the togetherness.
“Our kids are grown now, and we’re looking more for ourselves,” said Bill Thompson, of Clayton, N.J. “The heck with them!”
He’s just kidding, probably. Thompson and his wife, Paula, did not have to be wooed at last weekend’s Atlantic City Fall RV Show — they were already hooked. But they have already reached their RV peak, and it was time to start coming down, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
“We’re looking to what they call ‘downsize,’” Thompson said. “We love the RV lifestyle. We’ve been doing this since 1994. We started out with a pop-up and now we have a huge Class C — and now we’re starting to go back.”
The reason for the trade-in?
“My wife finds it a little bit intimidating to drive,” he said. “But I like it.”
“He likes the power,” Paula added.
A person would have been struck by two things while walking through the maze-like rows RVs filling the great, open expanse of the Atlantic City Convention Center on Saturday — one, this would be a great place to play laser tag, and two, it was awfully quiet. As in, people-coughing-in-an-art-museum quiet.
Blame the banks
“It’s dead,” said George Teutsch, general manager of Atlantic Cape RV Sales in Galloway Township, at about 11 a.m. “In other years, this time of the morning, it’d be wall-to-wall with people.”
Atlantic Cape owner Earle Humphries added that in past years, there would be “200 people on line” just before the doors opened. This year, he said, pointing to Teutsch, “it was us.”
It’s not that there’s a lack of interest, Teutsch explained — it’s just that there’s a lack of credit.
“It’s more the fault of the banks,” he said. “We have buyers, but we can’t get them financing.”
Of course, for those who do not have to worry about financing, going to an RV show is like being a kid in a candy store, if said candy were 12 feet high with two bedrooms and their own generators. Show director Harry Lutz estimated that about 70% of sales at events like this weekend’s show are on a straight cash basis.
“We anticipate strong sales,” said the ever-optimistic Lutz. “The important thing to emphasize is that RVers are not going to give up.”
For those who already have an RV, in fact, it’s a booming time. James Ford, of the Gettysburg Battlefield Resort in Pennsylvania, said his campground has had a banner year, with the past four months breaking all sorts of records.
RVing, Lutz said, “is an extremely inexpensive way for families to travel. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper to go RVing than to stay in a hotel.”
Or, as Tony Cahill, of Eagleswood Township, put it, RVing is “just getting away, instead of being a slave to a hotel room — a high-priced hotel room.”
Shawn Manogue, Ford’s partner, even had his own unique pitch in these unsettling times.
“It’s a perfect time,” he said. “With the H1N1 virus, you don’t want to be staying in any hotels. You got to know who’s in your room!”
Some prospective buyers already had their outdoorsy future all planned out.
Steve McLaughlin, of Downingtown, Pa., who described stays in hotels where there was nothing between him, his wife and the baby, envisioned a time when he can “put the kids to sleep, then sit outside and have a fire.”
Walking around inside a Kropf 52 Special Edition — designed to look like a house, complete with siding and windows — McLaughlin was impressed but wondered about a few details.
“This is really cool,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. The question is, where do you put it? They should almost have a person next door with lots for sale.”
For the Kahana family, of Franklin Township, Gloucester County, the answer to that was simple — their own backyard.
With four kids, Julie Kahana explained, “we need some extra space. We want to put it on our property so the kids will have their own house. We can make them chicken nuggets and send them out there.”
The “Fusion,” it seemed, was made to be entered in style — straight up a giant, open ramp.
“This is, like, for a racing team,” said Kahana’s husband, Rob.
“No, it’s not,” she answered. “It’s cool, though! The whole bathroom is black tile. It’s sharp.”
The draped carpetway rolled past RV models with names such as the “CrossRoads Cruiser” and the “Diesel Pushers” — seemingly something for everyone. But Lisa Rundle, of Millville, had no illusions as she walked down the wooden stairwell from one RV’s second floor.
“We don’t have enough money,” Rundle said, “to buy these big’uns.”