Camping World Inc. (CWI) and Good Sam Enterprises LLC today (March 8) announced plans to open a new supercenter in the Valdosta, Ga., market in November.
According to a press release, Camping World of Valdosta will feature the first co-located, co-branded 150-site campground and rally park for the company. In addition, the store will offer a wide array of RV sales, service, collision, parts and accessories for the outdoor enthusiast.
The new supercenter will join almost 100 other locations across the U.S., including four Georgia stores in the Atlanta, Macon and Savannah markets. Camping World of Valdosta will be located off I-75, exit 5, in Lake Park.
“We are excited to bring the Camping World one-stop shopping experience to Valdosta with our full-service RV lifestyle center that includes our proto-type Good Sam licensed RV campground,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam. “City leaders and landowners have embraced our recent acquisition because it puts money directly back into the local economy, brings jobs and helps to build revenue for businesses. Everyone wants to see success in their community.”
The co-located Good Sam park will take affordable family camping to a new level in the greater Valdosta area, according to Camping World. Visitors to the campground portion of the property will choose from 150 full-service campsites, including park models, as well as swimming pools, meeting rooms, pet playgrounds and other standard amenities with special rates for Good Sam Club members.
“We feel especially fortunate to be able to create a multi-business module that serves our southern Georgia and northern Florida communities with a wide choice of products and offering convenience off of I-75, while creating job opportunities,” said Roger Nuttall, president of Camping World Retail Group. “We look forward to serving the local community with high value products with the convenience and service fitting the greater Valdosta community’s recreational lifestyle.”
Camping World is the nation’s largest RV and outdoor retailer while Good Sam represents the world’s largest RV owners organization with more than 2,000 local RV chapters designed to bring RVers together from similar geographic regions for group camping excursions. Camping World is also the title sponsor of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in addition to the Official RV and Outdoor Retailer of NASCAR.
Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC announced the relocation of the Camping World of Ocala dealership to a new 85,000-square-foot facility in Summerfield, Fla. According to a press release, the new facility is just south of its existing location and will feature one of the largest indoor showrooms on the eastern seaboard.
“We initially acquired our Ocala location in November 2011 as part of a multi-store chain acquisition. We have realized great success, however, have not been able to execute our companies’ full offering,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam. “We knew that by binding both the retail and dealership locations in our network, we would get closer to achieving our goal of truly being the one-stop shopping location for the RV and outdoor enthusiast across the country.”
Camping World expects to open the new SuperCenter in Summerfield in June 2013, which is a short drive from The Villages, a retirement community with over 75,000 residents. The Villages offers 33 golf courses, eight country clubs, a wide variety of family and adult recreational areas as well as activities like archery, painting, pickleball, quilting, scrapbooking, synchronized swimming, tae chi and yoga. In 2012, Forbes magazine ranked The Villages as Florida’s fastest growing small town. Lemonis commented, “This close proximity to the Villages is a match made in heaven.”
Ocala is also known as one of the largest equestrian communities in the country. Camping World’s existing partnership with the annual Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, coupled with this new SuperCenter located in one of the nation’s most treasured equestrian locations, further solidifies Camping World’s position as the leader in serving the horse-loving communities.
As the expansion begins, Camping World/Good Sam will add additional positions for seasoned and professional RV sales associates, technicians and retail support to assist at this new location to aid its existing employee base. Camping World’s goal is to add more quality manufacturers and brands, increase their presence in the market, and grow the workforce.
Camping World of Ocala will feature motorhomes and towables from the finest manufacturers and brands including Winnebago Industries, Fleetwood, Thor Motor Coach, Itasca, Coleman, Heartland, Keystone, Forest River, Cross Roads, Monaco, Holiday Rambler, Jayco, Starcraft, Coachmen and many more.
On the accessory side the new location will feature new and innovative products including interactive displays and customer experiences from the top vendors such as Dometic, Honda, Thetford, Goodyear, Winegard, ADCO, Camco, Roadmaster, Husky, Reese, Cequent, Exide, Ultra-Fab, Coleman, Valterra, Dicor, Champion, Rand McNally, Max-Air, BAL, Furrion, Select Comfort, Cummins, Onan, WFCO, Weber, HWH, Presto-Fit, Stromberg-Carlson, Atwood, RDK Products, Magellan, King Controls, Charbroil, Amerigas, Exxon Mobil products, Norcold and many more. Camping World also carries and creates their own private label lines of exclusive products for the RV, outdoor and home markets.
“After a thorough search in this part of Florida, which included Ocala, Gainesville, Leesburg, and Inverness we landed on Summerfield because we felt this location best served all of the aforementioned communities,” said Johnny Sirpilla, Chief Business Development Officer for Camping World and Good Sam. “Camping World has a strong history of customer service and we look forward to serving the Greater Ocala area in the near future.”
Camping World is the nation’s largest RV and outdoor retailer while Good Sam represents the world’s largest RV owners organization.
Good Sam Enterprises LLC announced it has extended its partnership agreement with the QBE Group through 2017 to provide customers with RV-mechanical breakdown insurance.
According to a press release, Good Sam has been a partner with insurance provider QBE since 1999, offering customers financial protection in the event of a mechanical breakdown or failure, as well as expert claims administration. Years in the making, the new Preferred Provider Network helps match problems to the right repair facility, accepts direct payment from Good Sam for covered repairs and includes facilities that stand behind their work.
“After positive customer feedback and reviewing customer satisfaction levels it made sense to extend our partnership,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Good Sam. “Good Sam management and Good Sam customers demand the highest customer service levels in the industry and QBE shares a similar philosophy and focus on quality customer service. Together we will continue to reach 100% customer satisfaction.”
Benefits of the Good Sam Extended Service Plan include full-service claims administration, sign and drive repair, customized payment plans and travel reimbursement. Customers can also visit any Camping World SuperCenter for a free 22-point RV inspection. The Good Sam Repair Network currently numbers more than 10,000 providers nationwide.
One of the most game-changing exhibits on hand for the 550 attendees at the recent National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ (ARVC) annual Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo was that of Good Sam Enterprises LLC, where Ann Emerson, vice president and publisher of the all-new Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory, was working to spread the word on the rollout of Good Sam’s first consolidated campground directory.
Some 425,000 copies of the new print directory, a merging of two respected titles, Woodall’s North American Campground Directory and the Trailer Life Directory of RV Parks & Campgrounds, were to be released in December. And the fact that they’ve been combined is big news in the accommodations sector, as the two were often referred to as the “Bibles” of the campground arena for millions of traveling RV enthusiasts over the years.
The two publications had been co-published since the mid-1900’s by Good Sam Enterprises LLC and its predecessor, Affinity Group Inc.
The consolidation was announced earlier this year.
“I wasn’t sure what park owners were going to think when we went from two directories to one because Woodall’s is a strong brand, as is the Trailer Life Directory,” said Emerson. “But, overwhelmingly, park owners have said ‘yes.’ They have one set of directory rep teams to work with, one marketing plan and one marketing investment and rating system to understand.”
Emerson, at the same time, is spearheading the announced expansion of the Good Sam RV Park & Resort Network from her Ventura, Calif., offices in what amounts to another new twist for Chicago-based Good Sam as it seeks to extend the reach of its discount camping network to a host of new North American park operators. Emerson says things are going well with that as well.
“We started in 2012 with 1,667 Good Sam Parks in the network,” Emerson told Woodall’s Campground Management, now an independent publication based out of Elkhart, Ind. “We are ending the year with 2,133 Good Sam parks in the network. We’ve had explosive growth. The great part about that is you still have to maintain a certain rating before you can be invited to the network. We didn’t lower the quality of parks.”
So, Good Sam has been getting the word out on both fronts at the ARVC Conference and elsewhere. “We’re talking about the Good Sam brand and how the power of one investment in our directory gets you exposure to our Good Sam members, which is 1.3 million members,” said Emerson. “We also have our AAA relationship intact, the hallmark of the non-Good Sam RVer. Through a contract, AAA buys hundreds of thousands of our print directories and gives them to their AAA clubs throughout the country, and those clubs either give them to their members free or for a small charge.
“And we still have our circulation through our bookstores, obviously through Camping World, which is a big circulation channel for us as well. There are 100 Camping World (RV rolling stock and parts and accessory sales) locations.”
On the digital side, Emerson reports, the Trailer Life and Woodall’s websites are also being merged as Good Sam parks retain aggressive web exposure on the Good Sam Club site. “We have mobile apps in the digital market as well,” says Emerson. “What we do is walk into a park operator and say there’s one investment that they need. And they need to do it through Good Sam. And we work really hard to also promote our non-Good Sam parks. You can be in our directory without being a Good Sam Park.
“We obviously work really hard taking care of our Good Sam-member parks as well. Our rep teams are walking into parks and telling them we have one story to tell,” she added. “When you are with Good Sam, you are reaching this entire market, print and online.
This past weekend’s (Nov. 2-4) Good Sam Rally at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway was a successful venture in most every way it could be measured by host Good Sam Enterprises LLC, an affiliate of mega-dealer Camping World Inc., based in Lincolnshire, Ill.
With attendee coaches set up in the race track’s infield, the Daytona rally drew 3,375 consumer rigs, a public gate of about 5,000, dealer displays representing over 25 North American RV builders, a total of about 400 display coaches plus a tent full of indoor vendors occupying 300 booths.
Consumers, enjoying temperatures in the 80’s in the day and 60’s at night, were treated to an agenda of activities that included 25 daily seminars, a veterans’ parade, a dog show, area tours, fireworks displays and entertainment by C&W entertainers Kenny Rogers and Reba McEntire from an outdoor stage set up near the race track’s finish line.
“We always look at it like this: We want people to enjoy the seminars, the exhibits and have a good time with the entertainment,” Good Sam Vice President of Sales Terry Thompson tells RVBUSINESS.com. “And our hope, obviously, is that they buy a lot of product from the exhibitors and, you know, that they meet new friends and have a good experience at the rally and feel good about the lifestyle.
“And I think that all that happened here,” adds Thompson, noting that the celebrity entertainment was a big plus. “I mean, this was a big rally — to get over 3,000 rigs in early November in Florida is hard to do, and we did it, and I think people were really happy with it.”
One of the key pluses for holding a rally at a raceway, which Good Sam also did earlier this year in Phoenix, is that it provides consumers with a convenient and fun means of test driving demonstration coaches right on the track. Thompson reported that 110 motorhomes were available from various manufacturers at the speedway this past weekend.
“What really helped at this rally is that people got to test drive motorhomes around the track,” said Thompson, who’s responsible for selling the exhibitor space at Good Sam’s rallies. “That’s kind of unique. You know, it’s fun. We let these guys drive all the way around. Obviously, they better stay low or they’ll tip over. But it helps people (exhibitors) get deals done.
“Of course, we can’t always hold rallies at tracks, but at least here the novelty of driving around the track is pretty cool,” he continued. “I know some manufacturers did really well, including Winnebago, Fleetwood and Tiffin. These guys were happy.”
Good Sam, the only organization other than the Cincinnati-based Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) to host national-scale rallies at this point, registered 3,370 rigs in Phoenix and 2,033 in Louisville while next year’s two rallies are slated for Albuquerque, N.M., in April and Syracuse, N.Y., in June.
Punctuating a strong year on the RV show circuit, Good Sam Enterprises LLC rolls out its third consumer rally this weekend as more than 3,300 rigs have gathered for the Nov. 2-4 event at Florida’s famed Daytona International Speedway.
“We had more than 3,300 rigs registered and probably will approach 3,500,” Terry Thompson, vice president of sales for Good Sam, told RVBUSINESS.com while directing traffic Thursday at the Speedway. “We’re anticipating a really strong public gate as well.”
Thompson noted that 2012 marked the first year that Good Sam had managed three shows. He said that earlier runs in Phoenix and Louisville, Ky., generated strong gates and may have set the table for the Daytona edition.
“We had 3,370 rigs in Phoenix and 2,033 in Louisville,” Thompson said. “Obviously, we’re above that for Daytona, so with the public gate it’s lining up to be our best rally of the year. I think that people who attended our first two rallies got out the word that they were great events and that brought more people to Daytona.”
While weather is forecasting to be ideal this weekend with warm temperatures and sunshine, Rally Director Sue Bray noted that a brush with “Superstorm” Sandy earlier in the week posed some concerns.
“Sandy fortunately didn’t hit here,” said Bray. “It passed by before we were set up. We have a huge tent that houses all of the vendors but the scaffolding is all that was in place.”
Thompson said that over 25 manufacturers signed on for the rally and are blanketing the infield with new product at the expansive Speedway facility.
“The great thing about having a rally at Daytona is that people can test drive vehicles on the racetrack,” he said. “That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Of course, the hope is that they also buy the unit they’re testing.”
Over 300 10-foot by 10-foot vendor booths are set up under the tent, also positioned in the infield area. In addition, Bray said that the rally features 25 seminars each day along with a non-stop roster of special events and attractions.
“When people aren’t looking at RVs, they’ll have plenty to keep them busy,” Bray said. “There’s a veteran’s parade, a dog show and numerous optional tours, along with fireworks displays.”
Headlining the entertainment lineup for the rally are country superstars Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers.
“We are looking forward to a great rally,” Thompson said. “I think that the fact we’re seeing these kinds of numbers in early November – even before the big influx of snowbirds – is a real good sign that our industry is in good shape.”
Good Sam announced that as part of its 2013 goal to foster corporate social responsibility it has launched a new employee-related initiative called ‘Project Good Samaritan’ dedicated to its “mission of making our community a better place both as corporate citizens and for individual employees through a dedicated focus on philanthropy.”
According to a press release, the new initiative provides for the staff to volunteer eight hours of their work time a quarter to causes within their community that are meaningful to them.
“We believe that every corner of the organization, from the corporate office to our retail stores, call centers and RV dealerships across the U.S., our employees believe in our corporate responsibility, and will be excited to execute this program,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Good Sam and Camping World Inc. “We’ve had an amazing year and are eager to give back and support charitable organizations. It occurred to us that we could have a greater impact and help more people in our communities by using our staff on an ongoing basis.”
Lemonis recently led by example with his participation on ABC’s “Secret Millionaire” this past summer. He returned to his hometown of Miami for a specific episode of “Secret Millionaire” where he worked with three charity organizations to help provide the resources for them to succeed.
Good Sam, along with its sister company Camping World, currently employs approximately 5,000 associates and is the largest workforce in the outdoor and RV industries operating locations in 33 states.
“Good Sam and Camping World employees walk the talk when it comes to social responsibility and giving back to local communities,” said Zrinka Allen, executive vice president, human resources and social responsibility. “Our long term goal is to continue developing and promoting initiatives that keep the company and associates focused on giving back locally, consistent with the charter of the Good Sam Club in 1966 “people helping people.”
The Good Sam Club today (July) announced the dates for the organization’s two scheduled rallies in 2013.
According to a press release, the first event will be held April 11-14 in Albuquerque, N.M., at the Balloon Fiesta Field, followed by a June 13-16 rally in Syracuse, N.Y., at the New York State Fair.
“Many club members and RV industry personnel have been asking about our 2013 Rally schedule,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of the Good Sam Club and Camping World Inc. “In 2012, we expanded our rally schedule to make the events accessible to more members. After the terrific response we got from both members and exhibitors at our 2012 Louisville Rally last month and at our Phoenix rally earlier this year, we determined that we would schedule two Rallies in 2013.”
Good Sam is still accepting reservations for the last of the three 2012 Rallies presented by DISH, to be held in Daytona, Fla., at the Daytona International Speedway, Nov. 2-4. Entertainment at the Daytona Rally will feature country superstar Reba McEntire and American Idol’s Katharine McPhee.
“With an exciting location like the Daytona International Speedway, the outstanding entertainment, not to mention all of the great rally activities, we are expecting a big turnout and a great time for all of our guests,” said Lemonis.
Good Sam Enterprises LLC kicks off its Louisville Rally – the Lincolnshire, Ill.-based company’s second national consumer gathering of the year – tomorrow morning (June 21) in the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC), the same facility in which the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) holds its annual National RV Trade Show each winter.
A consumer coach count of about 2,000 rigs is down some from the 3,370 units registered at the company’s March rally at the Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona, but is pretty much on a par with that of Good Sam’s last Louisville consumer confab two years ago, reports Rally Director Sue Bray.
The Louisville rally, featuring hundreds of informative expert seminars, a veteran’s parade, guided tours to area sites and performances by entertainers Sheryl Crow and Burt Bacharach, runs through Sunday.
“We have very happy people, it seems like, because this is a great venue for us,” Bray, a longtime voice of the Good Sam Club, told RVBUSINESS.com, “and we’re just almost where we were (in terms of attendance) when we were here two years ago.”
Although the summer heat is a factor again this time around in Louisville, it’s not as bad as it was two years ago when the crowds gravitated to the shelter of the air conditioning system at the KEC — a big facility in which some 400 recreational vehicles are being displayed this week.
While OEM display space was sold out at the indoor show, the supplier area, housing 350 booth exhibits, was almost sold out as well, says Bray.
“There’s a couple new things that we’re doing,” added Bray. “One is we’re having something called the Good Sam Culinary Experience, and Food Network chef Bob Blumer is going to be doing cooking demonstrations. And we’ll also have some grills going and that kind of thing from Camping World so people can see the latest and greatest cooking gadgets as well as cooking styles.
“And we’re also offering our first-ever Bark Park, a dog park where you can take your dog and let it run around with other dogs. And we’ve got lots of pet things going on with our dog show, and then we do pet adoptions with the Louisville Humane Society, which is bringing out some adoptable dogs and cats.”
A personal $25,000 donation from Marcus Lemonis, chairman of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, helped kick off a new fundraising campaign launched earlier this week aimed at helping pay off the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s bank loans on the RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum in Elkhart, Ind.
The goal is to raise $100,000 in voluntary contributions by Aug. 31, all of which is to be matched by the Robert “Boots” Ingram family, which has put up a $100,000 challenge grant for the purpose of lowering the Hall’s debt to 1st Source Bank by $200,000.
“After seeing the information on what the Ingram family did and the attempt to pay down the bank – and knowing that the Ingram donation was really a match, not a guarantee from what I understand – yesterday (May 9) I made a contribution of $25,000 in the hope that other people will fill the gap and put this issue to rest,” said Lemonis, whose 5,000-employee, privately held firm based in Lincolnshire, Ill., operates 78 RV dealerships and 93 Camping World parts and accessories stores.
“You know,” he told RVBUSINESS.com, “they’re not asking for a lot, this organization (the Hall of Fame) that we’ve talked about in the past, and we need to know that it survives. It was as simple as that for me. I made a commitment a year and a half ago to do something, and this is a good gesture to ensure that other people feel the same level of responsibility.”
Hall of Fame President Darryl Searer, a former inductee appointed to his new post in March, says the Lemonis donation should help expedite the debt-reduction drive and give the Hall a leg up in reaching its stated goal.
“We need to reach the goal by the end of August to match the Ingram’s $100,000,” reported Searer. “And this is certainly a great start towards that, and I really appreciate the fact that Marcus Lemonis has stepped up to be the first significant donor toward meeting that goal. We’re 25% of the way there, as of now.”
Searer, chairman of Elkhart, Ind.-based Ultra-Fab Products Inc., reports that things are going well. “Yes, phenomenal is the best way to put it,” said Searer. “The people who are coming forward and offering assistance have just been more than I could expect.”
Upgrading the website has been a major priority for Searer, a former Hall treasurer and board member who has a “lengthy list” of things he wants to do this year in taking over the reins at the Hall, which houses a museum and library as well as rental facilities. That list includes “meetings with the mayor, newspapers and county officials.”
Meanwhile, Searer said he was pleased to have received a donation of 20 tables and 200 chairs from Elkhart’s Matterhorn Conference Center Banquets Catering, which provides catering services. The Hall of Fame previously had to arrange for rental tables and chairs for events held at the north side Elkhart shrine to the locally based recreational vehicle and manufactured housing industries.
Tax-deductible gifts, adds Searer, may be made by mail, in person at the Hall, by phone at (800) 378-8694, or through www.rvmhhalloffame.org.