A Giant Recreation World dealership that would showcase as many as 200 display models wants to park itself on a high-visibility location of in Palm Bay, Fla., near Interstate 95. But, according to a report by Florida Today, the company first must maneuver around neighbors’ concerns about the proposed layout of the dealership.
According to documents submitted to Palm Bay, Giant Recreation World, which has three locations in Florida including one in Palm Shores, is considering opening a dealership on a 24-acre parcel on Culver Drive that also has visibility from I-95.
The project includes a 32,000-square-foot sales and service building as well as an outdoor RV display area and storm water system on about 19 acres of the parcel. The remaining 5 acres could be developed in the future as lease space, but would also require a future review by city council.
To be built, the project needs a conditional-use permit, which Palm Bay City Council will consider granting. City leaders will also consider a request for a variance from the city’s rules on replacing trees larger than 18 inches in diameter.
The permit and variance requests came from the property owner REDUS Florida Land LLC, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo, which acquired the property last year in a foreclosure sale. Giant Recreation World, however, has a contract to purchase the land, according to the application.
Giant Recreation World would employ just under 40 full-time workers and about a dozen more part-time staff, according to applications.
While welcoming the jobs and economic benefit the dealership will bring to the city, some neighbors expressed concerns about the proposal as it is.
John Studer, a past president of Lockmar Homeowners Association, said the association has received some “strongly worded” responses from residents in his neighborhood, which is located south of the project.
Studer said he personally agrees that the RV dealership would be a fit for that property under Palm Bay’s zoning code, but would be happier to have it in the neighborhood if the plans showed more buffering to better blend in with the nearby homes, more trees preserved and better drainage.
Giant Recreation World, a leading Central Florida RV dealership, announced the addition of two key personnel at the company’s Winter Garden headquarters. Matthew Harrison has been named director of marketing and Vincent Caliendo appointed corporate webmaster.
According to a press release, Harrison brings extensive marketing and public relations experience to the position. He holds a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Central Florida and an associate degree in marketing. In this position, Harrison will develop new advertising campaigns throughout Central Florida that focus on the values that Giant Recreation World brings to the consumer.
Caliendo has a bachelor’s from the University of Phoenix in Information Technology. As the corporate Webmaster, he will be responsible for continuously upgrading the company’s website to display and provide customers enhanced capabilities in performing dynamic searches of product and services information.
Giant Recreation World CEO Don McNamara noted, “I am pleased to attract these talented individuals to our organization. Matthew and Vincent will contribute significantly to our ongoing growth.”
Founded in 1976, Giant Recreation World has 90 sales and service employees in three Florida locations: Winter Garden, Melbourne and Daytona Beach. For additional information visit www.giantrecreationworld.com.
The Central Florida RV Show is again bringing its trailers and motorhomes to Daytona Beach, Fla., the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
Today (Feb. 24) through Sunday, the Volusia County Fairgrounds will host the annual gathering where vendors and dealers show off their wares. About nine RV dealers will be on display as well as vendors selling equipment.
“Last year we had 7,100 people,” said Dave Kelly, marketing manager for the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA). “We’re hoping with nice weather projected, we can do 7,500 to 8,000.”
Kelly and local RV dealers said business has been slowly increasing. Interest and sales have been up at the association’s shows throughout Florida, Kelly said.
“RV sales typically have been a leading indicator coming out of a recession, it shows that people are starting to feel comfortable buying something like this,” he said.
Tim Karr, general manager of Giant Recreation World in Ormond Beach, said when the economy was booming a lot of families were buying RVs. That changed in 2008 and after, as they struggled with home prices, jobs and other negative impacts from the recession. But business has been a little better as of late.
“We’re making it up with an increased number of people retiring, so it’s fluctuated a little bit,” Karr said.
The Central Florida show has been put on for 20 years, five of them at the fairgrounds.
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.
Motorcoach dealers were licking their chops Wednesday (Feb. 2) as the big-wheeled behemoths rolled in by the hundreds to the Hernando County Airport in Brooksville, Fla.
That’s because many of the owners of the 1,127 recreational vehicles arriving for the opening day of the 30th Annual Family Motor Coach Association Southeast Rally will be looking for new models, both upgrades and down-sized, the St. Petersburg Times reported.
“We’re not here to show; we’re here to sell, baby, sell,” said an enthusiastic Chris Burdin of Long View SuperSales, one of the 14 dealers at the event.
The dealers have 125 models on display, the most ever, said Southeast Area association president Tom Eller. The rally that continues through Saturday.
(“Buying) has increased in the last nine months. Last year was depressed,” said Keith Abbott of Five-R Custom Coaches of Sanford.
“Banks are starting to finance again,” noted Tommy Kay, of Great Recreation.
“(Business) is upbeat. It’s getting much better,” added Dick Rocha with Giant Recreation World, a dealership with sites in Winter Garden, Ormond Beach and Melbourne.
“On Sale” signs surrounded the venue for Long View, which has taken part in the rally since 2002. Burdin said his company is offering RVs at 40% off dealership prices, from $40,000 for a 21-footer to $260,000 for a 43-foot model.
They’re willing to deal, the dealers said, because they don’t want to drive their coaches back home.
All of the dealers mentioned that more and more Baby Boomers are taking up the RV lifestyle, while some older folks are looking to downsize for economy’s sake.
“I think by the number of coaches here,” said Kay of Giant Recreation, “you can tell interest is up.” His company has 19 coaches on display.
What are shoppers looking for? More slide-outs, perhaps bigger counter tops, greater living space, bathrooms at the end of the living space rather than in the middle, computer and desk tables, dealers report.
Of course, many visitors from the North come to the rally for the warm weather.
Mike Jorde of North Attleboro, Mass., removed himself from 61 inches of snow this winter. More snow was in Wednesday’s forecast back home. “We come to Florida every year,” he said, “to live in the RV.”
Tim and Verona Calbath of Dover-Foxcraft, Maine, didn’t take any chances on getting caught in the blizzards. They toured in their RV to Zephyrhills in November and visited the rally on a daily pass Wednesday, just wanting to see what’s new in the RV business.
Back in Maine, “It’s snowing,” noted Verona Calbath.
Despite last year being the worst year for recreational vehicle sales in 18 years, industry officials are smiling on the eve of the 2010 Central Florida RV Show that starts Thursday (Feb. 18) at the Volusia County fairgrounds in DeLand, according to the Daytona Beach news-Journal.
More than 200 RV units — pop-ups to super motorcoaches — will be on display at the RV show in DeLand. Campgrounds, RV resorts, camping clubs, RV lenders, RV insurance and suppliers also will be represented. The show is sponsored by the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA).
Industry officials report they are seeing a turnaround from 2009.
Shipments of RVs from manufactures to retailers rose during the second half of the year, compared to 2008. And Snow Bird visitors to recreational vehicle parks and campgrounds are up across the Sunbelt.
“And attendance at the RV shows are up as is our walk in traffic,” said Larry McNamara, chief operating officer of Giant Recreation World with sales and service facilities in Ormond Beach, Orlando and Melbourne. “(The RV industry is) seen as a rule as an economic indicator. When things are good, sales are up. But when things are bad, it’s very bad.”
During a period of easy credit, annual RV shipments topped 311,000 units each year from 2002 through 2007, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). Shipments peaked at 390,500 units in 2006.
Shipments slipped to 237,000 in 2008.
Last year started off with only 7,300 shipped units, a monthly record low. In March, RV icons Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Monaco Coach Corp. filed for bankruptcy. Several smaller manufacturers closed their doors in late 2008 and early 2009.
The second half of the year brought some good news.
Fleetwood’s motorhome division was bought by investor American Industries Partners. Navistar International Corp. bought Monacos’ RV assets. Both will continue to be made using the well-known names.
Monthly RV sales in 2009 surpassed those of the same month in 2008 since August, but annual sales totaled only 165,700 units, down 30% from 2008.
“Manufacturers have cut their margins, reducing prices a bit,” McNamara said. “I think there is a lot of pent up spending.”
Campers are becoming active again as fuel prices level off, the stock market improves and the economy shows signs of recovery.
“Most RV parks and resorts that cater to Snow Birds are reporting higher occupancies this winter than they did last winter,” said Linda Profaizer, CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Larkspur, Colo.
Sunbelt parks are reporting increased snowbird occupancy of 10-30%, especially in Texas and Arizona. However, Equity Lifestyle Properties, the nation’s largest Sunbelt RV resort operator, reports flat Florida revenue for late 2009 and early 2010.
Bulow Plantation RV Resort in Flagler Beach as seen twice as many Snow Birds this year compared to last year, general manager Jeff Conner said.
“And we are getting calls daily from people making plans and then canceling or delaying them depending on the weather in Tennessee and the Carolinas. They’ll get here when they can get the RV out of the snow,” he said.
The new federal stimulus package includes tax incentives for buyers of new motorhomes and motorcycles.
But, according to a report in the Orlando Business Journal, Central Florida dealers have mixed opinions on how much it will help sales.
Under the package, buyers of those types of vehicles, as with those of new cars and pickups, will be able to deduct the sales tax they pay, a benefit designed to get people back into the shopping mode – thereby helping businesses.
At Flagship RV in Clermont, that would mean a savings of about $2,450 on an average RV sale of $40,000. But while area dealers generally like that part of the package, some aren’t sure it will make a difference.
“Right now, anything would be a blessing, but I don’t think it will have much of an impact until the economy turns around and banks start lending again,” said Gary Flagg, president of Flagg Enterprises, which owns Flagship RV where sales are down by 40%. He used to sell 700-plus RVs annually, but that’s fallen to 430 units.
As he sees it, the banks are the problem.
“The money is not trickling through the system – we’re getting no cooperation from lending institutions,” Flagg said, noting he has heard from plenty of potential buyers who simply can’t get financing.
Paris McNamara, business manager for Giant Recreation World, is also an enthusiastic backer of the stimulus incentive. She said the combination of the sales tax deduction as well as interest deductions on RVs – because many qualify as second homes – should get more people into the showroom. “We believe it will spur business.”
Pete Giarrusso, owner of Pete G’s Chopper Design Services, believes the tax deduction could tip the undecided in his favor.
“A lot of people are sitting on the fence, and this could be huge if they can discount the sales tax,” he said. “A customer doesn’t care where the discount comes from as long as he gets one.”
Such an incentive couldn’t come at a better time for Giarrusso. Revenue dropped from $1.8 million in 2007 to $1.4 million in 2008, with almost the entire decline attributed to slowing new motorcycle sales.