Dick Gore’s RV World is an hour away from row upon row of camped-out recreational vehicles for the Daytona 500.
It’s easy to assume the RV dealer in St. Augustine, 60 miles north of Daytona Beach, Fla., isn’t impacted. That would be wrong, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
“It’s a great profitability for the dealership, and the area for that matter,” said Joe Andrick, general manager.
Dennis Robbins, owner of Robbins Campers and RV Sales in Ormond Beach, said visitors think that RVs in Florida are a bargain because there are many dealers here.
“We sold one today from New Hampshire and one from Wisconsin that are all race people,” he said on Wednesday.
Andrick had already sold two expensive RVs to out-of-state fans, one to a couple from Colorado and another to Pennsylvanians. The Coloradoans traded in their 1993 RV for a 40-foot, 2006 RV worth $105,000.
From Ormond Beach to St. Augustine, Speed Weeks provides sales for RV dealers. Some see more, and all report a big bump in service traffic as Northerners discover problems on their trek to Daytona.
“It helps us a lot in service, somewhat in sales,” said Tim Karr, general manager of Giant Recreation World in Ormond Beach. Most customers he sees aren’t looking to buy or trade a new RV because they already have set plans for doing that. The servicing he provides is slight tinkering that takes a few hours but has helped double the business’ traffic compared with January.
“The vehicle’s been sitting up north or whatever, and they’ve let it freeze,” he said. “A broken showerhead, or they let the generator sit for a year and haven’t cleared the fuel line.”
Robbins said Speed Weeks provides an increase of about 25% compared with a typical February week.
“We pretty much schedule around them being here,” he said. “It’s new business, so it’s always a good shot in the arm.”
The surge in customers also provides something more permanent. Some locals see Volusia County filled with all types of RVs, get interested and stop in to browse. It’s similar to a fad in elementary school — when someone has a new toy, everyone has to check it out.
Seeing the sheer amount of RVs at the Speedway inspires locals, Robbins said, and people that are frustrated with the airline industry’s well-documented comfort issues seek out RVs as a “more pleasurable way to travel.”
Locals driving to work this week might see 15 RVs on the road, Karr said. Last week, they saw two. “People are thinking, ‘Gee, maybe we should do that, too.’ That’s what’s more likely to generate sales business,” he said.
Another RV dealer in St. Augustine is seeing increased traffic, but his is driven more by snowbirds than NASCAR fans. Karl Senderling, business manager at Ocean Grove RV Sales, said this is the time of year when people, especially snowbirds, start looking. Some shoppers are in town for the race, but the majority are vacationers who would be in the city anyway.
Dick Gore’s store has only been at its location in St. Augustine since Oct. 31, but Andrick, a veteran of the industry, sees positives overall in the market. He lives in Palm Coast, and, when he drives to work every day, he pays attention to the Flying J truck stop and rest areas along Interstate 95.
“I use that as a barometer,” Andrick said. “You’ll see at the beginning of February both areas are jammed up with RVs, people here for races. You can definitely tell once you hit February with the beginning of the Rolex 24.”
Motorhomes and trailers are a big business, accounting for about two-thirds of the RV industry’s $10 billion in revenue, according to market analyst First Research. Popups and other vehicles make up the other third.
The Good Sam Club, the world’s largest RV owners’ organization with nearly a million member families, has announced the recipients of its 2009 Welcome Mat awards, aimed at recognizing RV-friendly businesses for their customer service and commitment to the recreation vehicle lifestyle.
All Good Sam Club members are asked to vote for several categories of businesses they see providing RVers with superior customer service and meeting their specific needs. Awards reflect the diverse interests of RV owners, including their favorite sandwich shop, ice cream parlor, fuel and gas station, RV tow vehicle, golf course, as well as favorite sit-down restaurant, according to a news release.
Cracker Barrel, a casual family restaurant located throughout the U.S., has been named the winner of the sit-down restaurant category every year since the award’s inception seven years ago.
“Our Welcome Mat Award winners understand the needs of RVers and consistently take the extra steps to show us that they appreciate our business,” said Sue Bray, vice president and executive director of the Good Sam Club. “We congratulate all the award recipients and thank them for always making us feel so welcome.”
The following is a full list of this year’s honorees:
- Fuel/Gas Station: Flying J.
- Propane Outlet: Flying J.
- Outlet Mall: Tanger.
- Casino: Hard Rock.
- Fast Food Restaurant: Wendy’s.
- Ice Cream Parlor: Dairy Queen.
- Sandwich Shop: Subway.
- Sit-Down Restaurant: Cracker Barrel.
- Shopping Center: Wal-Mart.
- Dinghy Vehicle: Saturn.
- Tourist Attractions/Amusement Parks/Museums: Disney World, Orlando, Fla.
- Golf Course: Pebble Beach, Carmel, Calif.
- NASCAR Event: Daytona 500.
- RV Show: Tampa RV Supershow.
- State/Province to Fish: Florida.
- Good Sam Park: America’s Best Campground, Branson, Mo.
- Motor Oil: Shell Rotella.
- Pet Supply Store: PetSmart.
- Craft Store: Michaels.
- RV Accessory Store: Camping World.
- State to Visit: Florida.
- Province to Visit: British Columbia.
- Tow Vehicle: Ford.
All Welcome Mat winners will be honored in the April issue of Highways Magazine, the official publication of the Good Sam Club, and at the 2009 Rally taking place April 17 in Albuquerque, N.M.