Northeast Florida RV dealers reported a steady stream of visitors during the inaugural fall RV show at the St. Johns County Fairgrounds in Elkton, Fla., last week. According to a press release, the host Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) said the event was a success, attracting more than 2,000 people to the venue over its four-day run, Oct. 10-13.
The event drew many attendees from surrounding St. Johns, Flagler, Putnam and northern Volusia counties. Palm Coast residents Tom Ckee and his wife, Lisa, said they attended the show to get ideas on which type of RV they will buy later.
“We’re retiring in a year or two and we’re going to be buying a motor home,” Tom Ckee said. “This certainly beats traveling all over the place to see everything. It’s nice to have all the different RV types, from all the manufacturers, in one place.”
There were more than 200 new recreational vehicles on display at the fairgrounds, including motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels and tent campers. Peter and Donna Accorti, who live in St. Augustine, were at the show when it opened on Thursday to check out RVs for the very first time.
“It’s a beautiful place to have it, here at the fairgrounds where you can talk one-on-one with the all the salesmen, and there’s a lot less pressure in this type of environment,” Donna Accorti said.
The weather, which threatened to be a problem earlier in the week, cleared up in time for the Thursday opening to the relief of the RV dealers and vendors at the fairgrounds.
“Since it’s a first-time event, we really didn’t know what kind of crowd we were going to draw, but we did well,” said Ocean Grove RV Supercenter General Manager Rob Rothenhausler. “The weather was perfect, which is always good when you have an outdoor event like this.”
Camping World Inc. dealerships in St. Augustine and Jacksonville, which had 64 RVs on display, were positive about the decision to hold the fall event.
“We closed a couple of deals by noon the first day, so we knew it was going to be a good show,” said Camping World RV specialist Robert Houser.
Dick Gore, president of Dick Gore’s RV World, was impressed with the fairgrounds location – and the turnout.
“Everyone involved did their job and we had a great show,” Gore said. “The fairgrounds turned out to be a great facility.”
Gore said that each RV show is unique, and with the ever-changing designs and amenities being developed by manufacturers, there’s always something new to see.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes and it’s still changing as we go along,” he said. “Every year the manufacturers come up with something different. The lightweights have been big and that’s where the industry has been going the last few years.”
Rivers RV General Sales Manager Trevor Bild also said he was excited by the amount of interest the show generated.
“We had some very friendly people come by our display,” Bild said. “There was a lot of traffic and I was surprised that many of them were first-timers who had never been to an RV show before.”
Bild said Rivers RV sold 10 units through the show, which was a good number given it was the dealers’ first fall event in a new venue.
“We had expected more interest in campers and trailers, so we were surprised to sell two motorhomes at the event,” he said. “Next year, we’ll be bringing more motorhomes to display. And the weather couldn’t have been better. I just hope we get the same next year.”
Participating dealers included Camping World RV Sales (Jacksonville), Camping World RV Sales (St. Augustine), Dick Gore’s RV World (Jacksonville), Ocean Grove RV Supercenter (St. Augustine), Rivers RV Sales (Jacksonville) and General RV Center (Orange Park). All the dealers serve the northeast Florida market.
The same dealers plan to take part in the Jacksonville RV Show, scheduled for Feb. 13 – 16 at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.
San Diego-based La Mesa RV Center, one of the nation’s largest multilocation RV dealerships, is marking the grand opening of its fourth sales center in Florida.
According to a press release, the 122,000-square-foot facility, located at the former Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center, is the only known air-conditioned RV dealership of its kind in the state of Florida. The outlet will offer a wide variety of top-name new motorhomes and towables along with certified preowned units.
“Our modern Sarasota facility allows for a continued expansion within the state of Florida,” said La Mesa RV President Jim Walters. “Sarasota is known for attracting a huge population of winter visitors as well as year-round residents that enjoy the RV lifestyle. Customers of the Sarasota store will find that La Mesa RV has an immense selection while also being a financially strong dealership that stresses family values and taking care of the customer.”
With the opening of the Sarasota facility, La Mesa RV Center now counts 12 sales locations across the country. This marks the fourth location for La Mesa RV in Florida that includes sales and service centers in Sanford, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers. The company, with headquarters in San Diego, also operates stores in Davis, Calif.; Tucson, Mesa, Phoenix, Yuma and Quartzsite, Ariz.; and Albuquerque, N.M.
Additional information about the company, product offerings and locations may be found online at www.lamesarv.com.
For 37 years, Lazydays has maintained a grip on the Tampa, Fla., RV market with its ever-growing, expansive headquarters located within eyesight of Interstate 4 in Seffner.
According to a report by the Tampa Bay Times, customers from as far away as Alaska have traveled to the mini mecca to purchase everything from small pop-up campers to toy haulers and luxurious fifth-wheels.
A lot has changed since the days when a gallon of gas was a mere 45 cents. Diesel engines have increased fuel economy in the RVs. Technology, including convection microwave ovens, flat screen televisions and smartphone apps, have boosted the ownership experience. And competition for the leisure time dollar has grown.
As a response to these market trends, Lazydays opened the Better RVing Store on March 15.
Customers can expect to go beyond the car dealer look and find parts, upgrade options, services they have longed for or some they may not have known about.
“We got in the parts and service business not just to be in the parts and service business,” said Bill Tickel, parts and services manager. “We had customers who wanted to buy things that we just didn’t carry.”
Situated on 124 acres with a team of 492 employees, 221 service bays, 299 campsites and three restaurants, a retail store was a natural progression and one Tickel says the Lazydays team batted around for years.
So Lazydays renovated the former customer lounge and turned it into an open-design store. It also renovated a new customer lounge inside near the offices and training center.
Tickel said the layout was customer driven with a good shopping experience in mind, so don’t expect department store aisles or a cavernous warehouse feel. The Better RVing store carries necessities for any coach, as they are called.
It also offers items you might not expect such as outdoor camping accessories, pet owner needs and even some home-grown Florida crafts.
“We did not want to abandon our customers to an operation that could not supply them,” Tickel said.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that a main competitor is Camping World, which has an adjacent location and used to have a cooperation agreement with Lazydays to supply parts and accessories. Camping World terminated that agreement in June 2012.
Tickel said Lazydays wanted to make sure there was something available for every type of customer, right down to the toilet paper on the shelves for those who are visiting for meetings, rallies, educational seminars or vacations.
For every new flooring option, Lazydays also offers safety courses; for every recliner, mattress, cabinet and window shade there are “how to” classes. Lazydays, which operates a second location in Tucson, Ariz., has a pipeline to big manufacturers for special order “hard parts” needed for repairs.
Whether you prefer a Class A RV, or a towable, which Tickel says is the fastest growing coach segment, Lazydays offers its customers a variety of equipment and educates them on how to use it before hitching up and pulling away.
“We have a commitment to the customer experience,” Tickel said.
Seffner, Fla.-based Lazydays RV will be holding a grand opening for its “Better RVing” store on March 15 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a local pet rescue.
According to a press release, the new store is built inside the main building at the dealer’s long-time location in Seffner, serving the Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg markets.
Included in the grand opening event will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony along with a complimentary lunch, product demonstrations, golf cart tours, seminars and prize drawings. Rescued pets will also be at the store for adoption.
Lazydays said the the new “Better RVing” store will be an “integrated experience of the RV lifestyle and the products that support it.” There will be on-site experts, daily seminars, RV products from local companies like Florida Craftsmen, along with nationally-sold product lines that include satellites and mattresses.
For more information about the Better RVing store grand opening, call (866) 317-4019.
Florida Outdoors RV recently held a grand opening at its second RV dealership in Okeechobee. According to a press release, the retailer also operates a store in Stuart.
The dealer said that the timing is optimal, as the annual snowbird migration is under way. The new store is also situated along Highway 441, a major north-south artery in the state.
The outlet celebrated its grand opening with the Mayor of Okeechobee and other business leaders in the community. Florida Outdoors RV Country, the name given to the second location, sits on five acres with over 50 units on display, and features a 20,000-square-foot facility that includes a full RV service and parts department.
“It’s been great working with the business community here in Okeechobee,” said Marilyn Driscoll, store manager. “We’re looking forward to a great RV season and meeting many new people who love this lifestyle.”
Camping World Inc. announced it has acquired additional acreage on the heels of opening its new SuperCenter in Tampa, Fla. The new location, officially named Camping World of Tampa, opened in July 2012 and will expand on an additional 24 acres.
Plans are underway to expand the new I-4 Tampa SuperCenter to be the largest retail facility in the company’s 100-location network. Currently, the location is undergoing expansion to expand and renovate into an 80,000-square-foot facility that will include 40 additional service bays, a new 17,000-square-foot Camping World retail store and a state-of-the-art collision center. The new facility will be completed within seven months with the process starting in mid-February.
“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for Camping World,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World. “This location will be the flagship for Camping World Retail not only in Florida but in the entire U.S.”
He added, “This acquisition unquestionably positions Camping World to take the leadership position in the Southeastern United States. We look forward to delivering the highest quality and outstanding service that Camping World customers have come to know and expect across the country”.
The new Camping World facility is supported by 13 Camping World RV dealerships and retail stores already in the state of Florida.
Giant Recreation World in Winter Garden, Fla., will open a new “satellite store” in Palm Bay, according to a press release
The new dealership, expected to open by fall, will sit on 24 acres of land allowing for the display of over 300 RVs. The location will offer RV sales and service and is visible from Interstate 95, providing customers convenient access to the dealership.
Giant Recreation World COO Larry McNamara noted, “Our new location will have 50 full-time employees and easy access to serve the sales and service needs of our customers.”
Founded in 1976, Giant Recreation World’s 90-employee work force provide sales and service from three Florida locations: Winter Garden, Palm Shores and Ormond Beach.
Let’s face it: The purchase of recreational vehicles, motorcycles and watercraft — from personal water scooters to yachts — is a discretionary one. Improvements in sales figures for these markets are excellent indicators that consumers are feeling better about the economy.
As reported by the Florida Times Union, Jacksonville, increasing demand fueled by rising consumer confidence led industry analysts to early predictions for a better year in 2012. Predictions were primarily for modest gains and some growth or only modest declines for some sectors. Overall, the industry’s outlook for the year was a refreshing change from reports of drastic drops in sales and the dire predictions of some recent years for all sectors including recreational vehicles, motorcycles, land and water power-sport equipment and boats and boating equipment.
The recreational vehicle market has been in recovery mode for a few years now. The recession initially decimated the market with a combination of less available discretionary income for core RV consumers and tightening of financing options for business and consumer loans.
“Nationally, RV sales this year have been a bit flat,” said Steve Fogle, general sales manager at General RV Cenin Jacksonville. “Overall, the market seems stable. Here in Jacksonville, however, the RV market is incredibly strong. This has been a phenomenal year locally.”
Fogle said the popularity of RVs is due in part to the fact that people are looking for cost-effective vacation options that allow them to leave daily concerns behind while spending time with the family.
“RVs are the perfect solution,” Fogle said.
General RV Center has seen growth every year since the full-service dealership opened three years ago.
“Business has been great all three years,” Fogle said. “Our sales volume has tripled and we had to expand in the last two years to accommodate increasing demand. Right now, our best sellers are towable products. Motor homes also are doing well.”
Recreational vehicles are appealing to consumers on many levels. This appeal — combined with growing consumer confidence in the nation’s economic recovery, greater availability of financing and low-interest rate loans — has contributed to market improvements.
Fogle is looking forward to the Florida RV Show in Tampa later this month and the 2013 Jacksonville RV MegaShow at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center Feb. 7-10.
“The big trade shows in January and February will kick off the year, and I expect 2013 to be another great year for the RV market in Jacksonville,” Fogle said.
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Multilocation dealer La Mesa RV Center recently marked the grand opening of its third sales center in Florida, located in Fort Myers on Florida’s southeast coastline.
“We are excited to expand into an additional location within the state,” stated Jim Walters, president of La Mesa RV, in a press release. “And now, with our Fort Myers location, we have strategically placed facilities that will be near the majority of RV owners and RV visitors coming to Florida.”
With the opening of the new facility, La Mesa RV Center now counts 12 sales locations across the country, including other Florida outlets in Sanford and West Palm Beach.
The company was founded in 1972 in La Mesa, Calif., a suburb of San Diego, and has grown significantly with its headquarters in San Diego as well as stores in Davis and Dublin, Calif.; Tucson, Mesa, Avondale, Yuma and Quartzsite, Ariz.; and Albuquerque, N.M.
Today, La Mesa RV is known for being one of the top RV dealers of new motorhomes and towables from several high-profile brands as well as a premier dealer for late model, low mileage pre-owned motorhomes.
For additional information visit www.lamesarv.com.
South Florida-based North Trail RV Center announced plans for a $15 million dollar expansion at its Fort Myers location. The company also operates a dealership in Fort Lauderdale and a separate collision center in Fort Myers.
According to a press release, expansion of the 80-plus acre ‘footprint’ will begin in late 2012. The state-of-the-art facility will include expanded sales and finance departments, service buildings and a parts “mega-store” that will total over 70,000 square feet of floor space under roof.
With areas set aside for rallies and events, the ‘destination’ dealership will be a one-of-a-kind for the area, according to North Trail RV Center. Plans also call for the hiring of an estimated 100 new workers. Currently, the dealer employs over 180 people at its three locations.
“North Trail RV Center is already very unique because RV owners can have all of their sales, finance, service, bodywork, tire and chassis needs met right here in one place,” says Alan Erp, president and founder. “We completed the expansion of our collision, chassis and tire center in 2011. We will be significantly increasing inventory, as well as our staff and we will also be featuring the newest, largest RV parts mega-store in Florida.”
North Trail RV Center said it has been the largest Newmar dealer for the past 10 years, and is the fastest growing ‘Top 5’ Tiffin dealer in the nation.
“We are very excited and eager to break ground,” says Erp. “North Trail RV Center will without a doubt be the newest, state-of-the-art, destination dealership in the country. We’ve created a ‘families serving families’ atmosphere at North Trail RV Center over the last 26 years that has made us so successful that we’ve more than outgrown our current facility. We are investing over $15 million dollars into this ‘destination’ dealership and South Florida.”
Dan Wylie doesn’t sell RVs, motorhomes or fifth-wheels. He sells a lifestyle.
“It’s something we have to paint a picture of,” said Wylie, owner of Dream RV in Bradenton, Fla. “You’re selling fun.”
According to a report by the Bradenton Herald, Wylie sees more than RVs when he looks across his seven-acre dealership. He sees vehicles that fulfill peoples’ dreams and their desire to get away.
“You don’t have to go across country to get away,” Wylie said. “You can go down the road to Myakka State Park and you’re in a different world.”
He contends that “some of your best friends can be the guy you met at the campground on the other side of the country.”
Wylie started the business in 1998 with his significant other, Peggy Paulson. He had worked as the general manager of a larger RV dealer in Venice, Fla., and was burned out, but he didn’t want to leave the area.
So with $100,000 of his own money he opened Dream RV on U.S. 41 in Bradenton with a meager five RVs. He did so well that five years later he expanded to his current location on State Road 64.
“I started on a shoestring,” Wylie said. “You couldn’t do today what I did then because you would have to have substantial funding.”
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America Choice RV, based in Ocala, Fla., has opened a new location in Zephyrhills, increasing the dealership’s presence in Central Florida that includes the greater areas of Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Gainesville.
According to a press release, America Choice RV is a staple of central Florida’s RV community, housing a large inventory of towable and motorized RVs bearing the industry’s high-profile brand names. The dealership also offers a service center, including parts, collision and warranty repairs.
With over 42 years of experience, America Choice RV is the largest RV dealership in central Florida and is a Good Sam authorized dealer. For more information, visit http://www.americachoicerv.com or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.
The Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) space drawing for the 2013 Florida RV SuperShow yielded a 12% increase in manufacturer space over last year’s show, according to a press release.
FRVTA reported that the order in which space was selected during the drawing, held in the FRVTA office via phone and Internet, was determined by the “Grandfathered Drawing Order.”
“We want to thank all our manufacturer members for their continued support,” said FRVTA Executive Director Lance Wilson. “The SuperShow as well as all our regional shows provide our manufacturers and dealers with excellent opportunities to display their new products all over Florida. With a record attendance in 2012 of over 54,000, we are expecting the 2013 SuperShow to be even bigger and better than ever.”
The theme of the 2013 Florida RV SuperShow, held at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, is “Now’s The Time!” FRVTA said the theme emphasizes there won’t be a better time to buy an RV as dealers are highly motivated and interest rates may never be this low again. It is also an invitation to discover what so many people have already found out – RVs offer freedom, flexibility and fun not found in any other activity.
Industry Day at the 2013 Florida RV SuperShow will be Jan. 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Attendees will be treated to coffee and donuts in the morning and a free lunch. Public Days will run Jan. 16-20. Hours for the show are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday is Senior Citizens Day with seniors receiving $1 off the cost of admission (not valid with other discounts).
For more information on the 2013 Florida RV SuperShow or to register for Industry Day, contact the Florida RV Trade Association at 10510 Gibsonton Drive, Riverview, Fla., 33578 or visit our www.frvta.org.
The fact that gasoline prices that hovered near $4 a gallon earlier this year apparently didn’t drive people away from buying recreational vehicles in the Jacksonville, Fla., area, the Florida Times-Union reported.
“We really didn’t see much of a change in sales when gas prices rose,” said Matt Bateh, general manager of Camping World RV Sales on Beach Boulevard. “That’s a common misconception. The recession impacted RV sales, but gasoline prices alone rarely affect them. If a person is going to spend $200,000 or more on a Class A motorhome, most of the time the price of gas doesn’t matter much to them.”
According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the market continued to strengthen through the first four months of 2012 compared with last year. With total year-to-date shipments totaling 98,400 units through April, RV sales were up 9.7% compared to the same four months last year.
“While the recession created new economic realities for most Americans, RV manufacturers responded by designing products with the right mix of space, amenities and price points, further positioning RVs as the ideal way for families to share outdoor experiences together,” RVIA President Richard Coon said.
As a segment of RV sales, motorhome shipments have showed a decline nationally. But Jacksonville dealers said the drop was minimal.
“We really didn’t see much of a change in motorhome sales, even when gas prices were at their highest point,” said General RV Sales Manager Steve Fogle. “Overall, we’ve seen double the sales each month since the year began. In fact, we tripled sales some of those months compared to last year. We expect that pattern to continue through the summer.”
Since arriving in Northeast Florida, General RV has expanded significantly. Fogle says they recently purchased seven additional acres and are currently retrofitting the former Mike Shad Nissan facility. When its latest expansion is complete, General RV will have a 22-acre dealership.
Just as throughout the country, where towables account for about 70% of RV sales, it was much the same at General RV.
“Towables lead the charge, and we’ve been doing extremely well in that category,” Fogle said. “We’ve got some great buys right now, and everybody likes to get a good deal.”
Region One of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) returns for its 17th annual RV show at the Lee County Sports Complex/Hammond Stadium in south Fort Myers, according to a press release.
Nelda Iacono, president of Region One, reported that the April 20-22 event will feature 11 dealers from throughout Florida’s Gulf Coast displaying a wide selection of new and used recreation vehicles of all styles, brands and price ranges. RV suppliers also will be on hand with financing for qualified buyers available.
“This event is held just before the summer traveling season, so consumers can make their plans to see our great nation,” Nelda explains. “Dealers also need to reduce their inventory from the busy winter season, so prices for new and used RVs have been reduced as well.”
FRVTA said that financing for both dealer inventory and qualified buyers has improved, resulting in a market that has seen RV sales markedly recover for both new and used merchandise.
“Statistics continue to show that an RV vacation is much less expensive than other vacation travel options, even when a purchase is factored in,” Nelda explained. “Even with the recent increase in fuel costs, an RV vacation is still a bargain.”
Visit www.FRVTA.org/rv-shows for more information.