Hundreds of RVs packed New Jersey;s Atlantic City Convention Center over President’s Day weekend for the 18th annual RV show, according to a report by NBC40 TV.
Officials from the RV convention said they saw a record number of sales this year. They said they also had a large number of people asking to buy or rent an RV because they were displaced from their home after Hurricane Sandy.
Marybeth Tedesco, a show manager from GS Media and Events, said, “I do know there have been some RV dealers that have had people from Sandy buy RVs because their homes are gone.”
Allen Fennimore of Stone’s Camping World added, “One particular person came in and he lost the bottom of his house, and he lost his trailer, and he did purchase a trailer from us.”
One shopper NBC40 spoke with said these RVs would be a nice option for someone that may still be struggling to get back on their feet. Susan Maxeine explained, “FEMA seems to be giving people certain amounts of money if you can’t get back into your home. It might be better than going to a hotel every two weeks where you don’t know where you’re going to be living. So for some people who can’t get back into their homes…it is an option.”
Whether casually browsing, or looking to replace their home, the RV show in Atlantic City was in full force this year.
“I hope we did help some people from Hurricane Sandy,” said Fennimore.
When the economy faltered in 2007, the recreational-vehicle industry nosedived after five years of historic highs as Americans tightened discretionary spending and the credit market froze.
According to a report in the Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), sales of the camping-friendly vehicles now are rebounding, a welcome trend in a region home to most of the state’s campgrounds.
The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported 252,000 RV shipments in 2011, the industry’s highest in four years. And while the industry originally expected little growth in 2012, a recent uptick in sales and attendance at RV shows has analysts rethinking prospects for the year, said Kevin Broom, spokesman for RVIA.
“The RV industry has been a leading economic indicator for the past number of recessions,” Broom said. “RV shipments go down first because RVs are discretionary purchases that are typically financed. When consumer confidence drops, people aren’t as confident about borrowing money. We think the outlook has improved for 2012.”
RVs are a big player in the region’s tourism industry, which abounds with seasonal campgrounds. Cape May and Atlantic counties have about half of the state’s campgrounds, according to the New Jersey Campground Owners Association. Many others are in Ocean County.
Signs of growth will be sought at the annual Atlantic City RV Show running Feb. 17-19 at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
The show has a big impact at Driftwood RV Center, which has locations in Dennis and Egg Harbor townships, said John Worthington, marketing director for the business.
“It’s a huge percentage of our first quarter, but more than that it sets the tone for the year,” Worthington said. “If you have a strong show, there will be a lot of people who go to the show, get excited, but may not be ready to pull the trigger. But a month and a half after the show, some will return to the dealership.”
The nationwide RV industry hit a low in 2009, when 165,000 units were shipped, the industry association said. That was the second consecutive year in which shipments dropped about 30%. Shipments represent new RVs delivered from manufacturers to dealers.
In 2006, 390,500 RVs were shipped, the highest number in more than 30 years.
Broom said the industry saw a turnaround in 2010, when shipments rose to 242,300, a rise of 46% from the previous year. Shipments rose about 4% in 2011, he said.
As the industry experienced these changes over the past five years, many RV manufacturers redesigned products, using different materials to make them lighter and more fuel efficient, Broom said. Towable RVs make up more than 85% of sales, he said.
As Americans’ preferences shifted from large SUVs to smaller vehicles, manufacturers began producing lighter trailers that could be towed by smaller vehicles such as minivans and crossovers, he said.
Worthington said Driftwood has seen that trend as well, as more shoppers search for environmentally friendly construction and lighter vehicles.
“They’re making them lighter, easier to tow,” he said. “People may not have the sizeable trucks they had a few years ago.”
RV enthusiasts turned out in high numbers as the crowded show floors resulted in steady sales at the 21st Annual North Carolina RV & Camping Show, as well as the 16th Annual Atlantic City RV Show, both held recently and sponsored by DISH Network.
The shows were a great success in Charlotte, N.C. and Atlantic City, N.J. featuring new Class A, B and C motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, popups and park models from leading dealers in the region, as well as campgrounds, RV and camping accessories and entertainment, according to a news release.
Both shows reported strong sales and increased attendance over 2010 with an 18% increase in Charlotte and a record 8% increase in Atlantic City. According to Jeff Haughton, regional vice president of both shows, “We are seeing more and more support from the general public for the RV lifestyle as RVing continues to be a superior and affordable vacation option for families.”
Anthony Tedesco, show manager of the North Carolina RV & Camping Show, said, “The show was phenomenal with several reports from dealers of better-than-ever sales. The success of the show created an overwhelmingly positive response from both the RV dealers and exhibitors.”
Alan Good of Camping World RV Sales said, “We were ecstatic to see the traffic flow considering Charlotte is a hard city to navigate. It was an excellent show for us and we tripled our sales from last year. It’s a great show for the RV industry and we can’t wait to be back next year.”
Richie Keller of Country Camping Center agreed.
“We were very pleased with the results of the show. We had a lot more activity than last year and it’s encouraging to see our sales increase each year,” he said.
Similar results were seen at the Atlantic City RV Show. Steve Minginelli, owner of Dylan’s RV, said, “We had a tremendous show – one of our best ever. The traffic was incredible with so many interested customers that at times we didn’t have enough staff on hand to assist! It was definitely exciting and encouraging to see such a strong interest in RVing again.”
Show Manager Harry Lutz added, “The attendance was astounding and dealers sold a lot of product; everything from small to large units. There was definitely a refreshing attitude among the attendees with many coming ready to buy.”
The shows were run by Affinity Events, a division of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), parent company of RVBUSINESS.com.
The rebounding recreational vehicle industry will display its latest offerings this weekend at a bigger Atlantic City RV Show, the Press of Atlantic City reported.
Now in its 16th year, the show will feature more than 250 new models from nine large dealers, with 54 exhibitors total, said Harry Lutz, show manager for the Affinity Events division of Affinity Group Inc., parent company of RVBUSINESS.com. The show starts Friday (Feb. 25) and runs through Sunday at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
That is up from last year’s six dealers, and the Atlantic City show gets the largest dealers since this is the part of the state where campgrounds are king. Among the largest exhibitors will be Driftwood RV Center, Crossroads Sales, Hitch-RV and White Horse Leisure, Lutz said.
“People don’t have to traipse all over to see a variety of units, driving around for two or three days and then going home and saying, ‘What was that unit like?’” he said. “Here you can walk over and look at it again.”
On display will be all three classes of motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, park models and folding campers — with new levels of fuel efficiency and many at special show pricing. Camping resorts will pitch to RV owners, and apparel and accessories also will be available.
The upturn at the show mirrors that in the industry.
Market analyst Robert W. Baird & Co. of Milwaukee estimated that demand for recreational vehicles increased 20% in the fourth quarter.
RV shipments for 2010 were up 46% from the year before to 242,300 units, data compiled by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) showed.
However, an analysis by Richard Curtin at the University of Michigan determined most of that gain was attributable to inventory buildup rather than sales as dealers restocked their lots in anticipation of a return to growth. Curtin forecast that unit shipments will rise 9% this year to 263,100.
Lutz said Affinity has staged five RV shows in the past four weeks, and all have done better this year than last.
“At this year’s show attendance is up by about 40%, and sales of units have also substantially increased, in all types of RVs from tent campers on up,” he said.
Even the snow and storms of this winter haven’t discouraged customers.
“The Edison (Middlesex County) show in January was gangbusters as far as people buying stuff,” Lutz said. “Dealers said even back at their lots afterward with a lot of snow and bad weather, they were still busy.”
Lutz said that besides emerging from the recession slump in discretionary purchases, the RV industry is benefiting from two demographic trends.
- “The Baby Boomers are starting to become players in our marketplace,” he said, with members of that largest generation looking for retirement homes and vehicles for vacationing or visiting their children.
- At the other end of the age range, young families are seeing RVs as a cost-effective vacation that keeps the family together, often a kind they experienced with their own parents, he said.
Lutz said the RV industry is doing better at drawing such new, young customers than alternatives such as boating.
“I got two phone calls today from people who have never been to an RV show before. One asked, ‘Can I buy one there?’ The other said, ‘Should I bring my truck to bring it home?’”
While the answer to the first is yes and the second no (vehicles are prepped and picked up at dealerships after the show), Lutz said the meaning is new customers are entering the market.
Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) is the parent company of Affinity Events and RVBUSINESS.com.