The RV business is one of the brighter spots in the Wisconsin economy among discretionary consumer purchasers of RVs, motorcycles and boats, according to the Kenosha News.
In the RV business, “there’s more interest; there’s more people in the showroom; there’s more people buying,” said Tim Wegge, owner of Burlington RV, Sturtevant.
Starting in the fall of 2007, Wegge said, the industry was in a free fall, and his sales dropped by half. Things are improving, but Wegge believes full recovery will take years.
“Our industry has historically been in and out of a recession earlier than everybody else,” he said. And, contrary to popular belief, gas prices have had little effect on the business, generally speaking. The $4-a-gallon mark of a few years ago did give RVers pause, he said, but “if people are buying an RV and you’re thinking about gas, well, you’re not really an RVer.”
The lure of camping is enduring, and RVing is a lifestyle, he asserts, and inexpensive compared to hotel stays and air travel. RVers “are going to take shorter trips; they’re going to take fewer trips, but they’re still going to be RVers,” he said. Manufacturers and many dealerships closed in recent years, he said, and the recession meant cutting his own staff from 50 to 20, but now he’s starting to hire again.
“We feel we’ve hit bottom, and we’re starting to see the turn,” he said. He’d be happy if his sales this year were 10% higher than last.
Elsewhere, in the motorcycle and boat business, the fun has not quite begun.
“It’s not any better than it was last year,” said Ken Maynor, who with his wife, Kelly, owns Shoreline Motorsports. “I don’t really see anything, any improvement in the economy.” Even more advertising hasn’t helped.
Things are a little better at Jalensky’s Outdoor and Marine. “I wouldn’t say it’s an uptick,” said Greg Jalensky, general manager. “We’re even with what we were last year.”