Industry Momentum Behind Atlantic City Show

March 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Like the boat and classic car exhibitions before it this year, the Atlantic City, N.J.,  RV & Camping Show expects to rebound with its industry this week — and without a snowstorm getting in the way, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

Manager Harry Lutz said the show, which opens Friday in Atlantic City Convention Center, will have more than 200 recreational vehicles, up from about 120 at last year’s recession-shrunk event.

He said there’s reason to expect a jump in attendance too.

Since January, show owner Affinity Group Inc. has staged seven RV and camping shows on the East Coast, “and at every one, attendance has been up 34-76% over the previous year,” Lutz said.

Signs of a rebound in the RV industry are strong.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported last week that January shipments of RVs more than doubled — to 15,800 units — from 7,200 the same month last year.

The University of Michigan Consumer Survey Research Center predicts RV shipments will reach 215,900 units this year, which would be 30% above last year’s dismal 165,700 vehicles.

The turnaround is coming at an appropriate time — the 100th anniversary of the first mass-produced recreation vehicle, according to the association. Such early “auto campers” had simple sleeping and cooking facilities.

Now, even pop-up tent trailers have air conditioning, and many trailers boast large, flat-panel TVs. But demographic rather than technological trends are driving the market, Lutz said.

“A lot of Baby Boomers are saying, ‘We’re selling the house, taking off and going to travel a couple of years and decide where to move to,'” he said. And, families are buying campers as an economical way to spend time together.

Dina Hurley has noticed a turnaround at Crossroads Sales, a large RV dealership she owns in Newfield, Gloucester County, N.J.

“People are back out buying. It started after the first of the year,” she said. “I think people are just ready.”

Crossroads will bring 16 vehicles to the show, “fifth-wheels big and small, and entry-level to high-end travel trailers,” Hurley said.

The show draws people from the normal range of its customers — the N.J., Pa., N.Y. and Del. region — but a lot more of them than the dealership could otherwise see in one weekend, she said.

Like most exhibitors, Crossroads will tempt them with deeply discounted show prices, she said. An example: a 2011 Trail Runner 27-foot Bunkhouse with slideouts for $15,999, down from a suggested retail of $24,000.

Also at the show will be places to take such vehicles.

Lutz said an industry trend is for RV parks to add enough services and attractions that they become resort destinations themselves.

One example is Beachcomber Camping Resort in Lower Township, N.J.,which will use the show to tell campers about the activities it offers daily from mid-June until Labor Day, said Mark Salfi, reservation supervisor.

Beachcomber attractions include two freshwater lakes, three swimming pools, boat rentals and catch-and-release fishing — besides its close proximity to the Wildwoods and Cape May. With 750 sites, it can take RVs as big as 45 feet, Salfi said.

The Atlantic City show will also offer accessories for camping and campgrounds, including one that might interest non-campers living on barrier islands – low-speed electric vehicles.

South Jersey Electric Vehicles of Egg Harbor Township will show so-called neighborhood vehicles for use on roads with speeds of 35 mph.

Owner Stuart McGinnis said two-, four- and six-passenger models are available, as well as a utility model like a little truck.

Besides being non-polluting, the electric vehicles can drive 50 miles on about 15 cents worth of electricity from a regular 110-volt outlet, he said. The firm will offer 10-15% off list price at the show, bringing the price of the truck, for example, from $19,000 down to $17,000.

This year, the show will also have clowns and face painting, and, for a small additional charge, a climbing wall, Lutz said.

With clear weather forecast and the recent success of other shows, he said he’s “extremely enthusiastic” about this year’s Atlantic City event.

“I think people are getting fed up with every day — just the negativism pelting everybody. They’re saying, ‘Hey, we work long and hard, let’s get moving,'” Lutz said. “And all the snow has helped with cabin fever and wanting to get out.”

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