January towable retail sales declined 49.2%, according to the latest report from Statistical Surveys Inc.
The results came on top of December’s survey that showed towables declined 39.9%.
According to the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm, in January:
- Travel trailer retail sales decreased 48.1% to 3,496 units.
- Fifth-wheel trailers fell 50.2% to 1,947 units.
- Folding camping trailer sales fell 49.3% to 285 units.
- Recreational park trailer sales fell 60.4% to 111 units.
January was the eighth straight month that retail sales have outpaced wholesale shipments, indicating that RV dealers continue to lower inventories aggressively.
Thor Industries Inc. continued to maintain its market position with 28.2% of the travel trailer market and 40.2% of the fifth-wheel market share. FTCA Inc.’s Coleman Camping Trailers brand held 38.9% of the folding camping trailer market. Chariot Eagle Inc. gained the top spot in recreational trailers with a 15.3% market share.
NuWa Industries Inc. intends to start building HitchHiker fifth-wheels again beginning in June after a six-month shutdown of its factory in Chanute, Kan., according to a letter on the company’s website.
NuWa representatives did not immediately return a call from RVBusiness for comment.
In the letter, CEO Mike Mitchell said the company will roll out 2010 product through the fall while cutting retail prices substantially as it will begin selling RVs factory-direct to better service consumers consumers without a NuWa dealer nearby.
“NuWa will be a smaller company, so we will not be as much at the mercy of a volatile economy,” Mitchell wrote. “NuWa will have fewer dealers by choice, and these will be selected for their commitment to HitchHiker trailers and the exceptional customers who seek our product.”
The company announced in late December that it was making “a graceful exit from the RV industry” and would stop production in January while keeping a service center open until at least 2010 to meet the parts, warranty and service needs of its customers and dealers.
At the time, dealers were told that NuWa was not going bankrupt and “intended to meet its financial obligations.”
In his recent website letter, Mitchell said the company was establishing factory-direct sales because “many market areas will not have dealer representation, and because some full-timers simply prefer a relationship with the factory.”
At the same time, Mitchell said, “this concept will also help us maintain more control of competitive product pricing.”
“We will eliminate the artificially high MSRP so often used by the industry to manipulate the unsuspecting customer, and too often gives a false premium for the trade,” he wrote. “This present process is confusing and often detested by many buyers.
“Discounted cash/wholesale trade selling prices typically will be 25% lower than comparable 2009 model prices, but will be non-negotiable. The low cash price concept will require that trades be taken at wholesale, as the new unit pricing will be much nearer wholesale.”
Mitchell said that 175 unsold 2008 and 2009 HitchHikers remain in factory and dealer inventories that are “well-priced” to allow dealers to make room for 2010 models.
He said that it’s likely that some floorplans will be trimmed and that some models won’t be available until the fall.
“Our employees and staff are excited about the prospect of again producing exceptional trailers for American’s RVers,” Mitchell wrote.
Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Nappanee, Ind., has introduced an XL option for its 2010 Wide Open and G-Force fifth-wheel toy hauler series, creating a vapor wall that can be opened to extend the living area into the heated garage. “Most toy hauler consumers want a sealed garage to eliminate the transfer of fumes, but many can’t justify losing 12 feet of living space for the garage area,” said A.J. Jones, Gulf Stream’s national sales manager for its EnduraMax division. “This patent-pending XL option is the first way to really overcome that objection.” The XL’s sealed rear wall, which contains an entertainment center that includes a flat-screen TV on a swivel bracket, opens toward the garage to create more living space after toys have been removed. The heated garage area also contains two queen bunk beds. The $693 XL option is available in five floorplans each in the vacuum bonded fiberglass-and-aluminum Wide Open and G-Force series.
The Dow may be dropping and the unemployment rate rising, but Saturday at the 39th Annual RV and Camping Show in Syracuse, N.Y., dealers and vendors reported steady traffic and an upbeat mood among buyers.
“I’m happy, and it takes a lot to make me happy,” said Kevin Bostrom, regional vice president of Camping World.
“If I had a tail, I’d be wagging it,” added Jim Kring, show director.
The Post Register, Syracuse, reported that even with the economy in the dumps, people were turning out in droves at the camping show. Kring said the crowds were “fantastic,” with attendance up on Thursday and Friday. “Saturday is beyond my wildest dreams,” Kring said. The show, held at the Americraft Center of Progress Building, concluded Sunday.
Dealers reported that the heavy traffic also generated sales.
“Just look at the sold signs,” Bostrom said, pointing down a row of motorhomes and travel trailers with bright green “Sold” signs on them.
Anne Wrench, of Bainbridge in Chenango County, was one of many buying or close to buying a travel trailer Saturday. She didn’t believe the doom and gloom of economic forecasts.
“Apparently, people want to buy,” she said. “Look at all the people here.”
Those selling the fifth-wheels, trailers and motorhomes said camping is attractive because it’s an affordable way to vacation.
“Camping is cheap – it’s less expensive than flying and paying for a motel,” said Jerry Fitzpatrick, of Great RV Outdoors Superstore in Fulton. “You can get a nice trailer for $150 a month.”
Fitzpatrick said his store sold three times as many units in February as in previous years. “After six months of winter, people want to get out camping,” he said.
There were plenty of bargains as some units were marked down by thousands of dollars for the show.
Mike Brennan was browsing the show looking for a replacement trailer. He has taken his current camper all the way to Alaska twice and was checking out the current models.
“The economy doesn’t bother me,” Brennan said. “I’m retired.”