Resurrecting another iconic label carrying strong brand recognition with consumers, Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC announced the launch of its Wilderness travel trailer series, set for unveiling during the Sept. 19-23 Elkhart County 4th Annual RV Open House.
“Wilderness was part of Fleetwood’s rich towable portfolio that Heartland acquired through the bankruptcy court in 2009,” said Coley Brady, vice president of sales. “While we have no intention of producing all the Fleetwood brands, we felt – and our dealers agree – that Wilderness is a legacy brand with inherent brand recognition and value.”
Brady emphasized that Heartland’s Wilderness line, positioned as a player in the high volume lightweight laminate category, would represent a new generation of trailers with features, pricing and durable, lightweight construction aimed to meet the demands of today’s marketplace.
“We are hitting the middle of the bell curve in the super lightweight market with a full-featured, value-laden travel trailer,” noted Mike Creech, general manager. “One of the compelling features is the curvilinear roof design offering residential, 7-foot ceiling height in the trailer. That will give our dealers a huge competitive advantage.”
Creech said another salable, distinguishing feature for dealers is that Wilderness offers “a true full lineup,” giving consumers a choice of 11 floorplans ranging in length from 19 to 35 feet and available in four decors. Base MSRP’s run from $19,000 to $29,000.
“Floorplans run the gamut from a rear living arrangement to a bunk bed configuration for families to a traditional couple’s coach,” Creech said.
With dry weights starting at 4,184 pounds, Wilderness keys in on the trend toward lighter weight trailers while still offering spacious kitchen, bathroom and living areas. All units are equipped with one to three sliderooms except for the 2350 floorplan.
The Wilderness also sports several set-apart features, including: a detachable power cord, Wide Trax suspension, exterior shower, diamond plate profile, large entry door grab handle, safety glass, radius entry steps and supersized awnings.
Heartland will be part of the Thor Industries Inc. display setting up at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart during the Open House. Representatives will be on hand to show six new Wilderness floorplans along with Heartland’s full line of travel trailers and fifth-wheels. For additional information on Wilderness contact Creech at 574-210-1976.
Elkhart, Ind.-based Heartland RV has partnered with Winegard Co. to prewire for TRAV’LER antennas on two of its 2012 models; the Bighorn and Landmark.
“Heartland RV chose to prewire for TRAV’LER antennas because Winegard has earned a solid reputation in the RV industry for reliability and unmatched antenna performance,” said Kary Katzenberger, Heartland RV Bighorn/Landmark general manager. “Since the antennas are provider specific, we do not want to make that choice for our customers; so instead we decided to do the next best thing and prewire the RVs for units, making them easier to install at the dealership. This also guarantees that the customer gets the exact antenna they want.”
Heartland and Winegard partnered together because dealers can struggle installing antennas at times. With the Bighorn and Landmark models already prewired, installation is made simpler.
“Heartland RV is one of the leading original equipment manufacturers in the U.S. and we’re proud to partner with a company that believes in no compromises,” said Aaron Engberg, director of mobile products at Winegard. “They recognized that without the prewire installations can be difficult for the dealer, as well as costly for the RV owner, both of which are being addressed because of Heartland’s dedication to quality customer service.”
TRAV’LER antennas provide the unique ability to view multiple satellites at the same time, allowing the RV owner to enjoy satellite TV in the RV just as they do at home. TRAV’LER antennas provide the strongest signal strength and receive maximum SD and HD programming. They work with DVRs and allow simultaneous viewing with different programs, something domes and most other mobile antennas can’t do.
For more information about the Winegard TRAV’LER, visit http://www.winegard.com/travler. To find a Winegard dealer in your area, visit the RV satellite antenna dealer locator online.
Take a visit to any RV dealership and you’ll immediately notice the trends in motorhomes and trailers these days. As reported in Canada’s Saskatoon Star Phoenix, words like luxurious, amenities and conveniences are becoming a constant part of the RV salesperson’s vocabulary.
“People are spending more time in their RVs,” says Patti Gryzbowski from Sunridge RV in Radisson, “so they’re looking for more functional features.”
At the same time and for the same reasons, she says people are also looking for RVs that are more feature-rich. “A few years ago it was our base models that were the better sellers but now we’re finding people want the loaded models. Again, because they spend more time in their RVs, people are wanting more and more comforts and conveniences of home.”
Gryzbowski points to one particular model – the Prowler Shadow 29 PS RKS by Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, which recently acquired the Fleetwood towable brands, including Prowler.
“We’re really excited about this model,” she says. “It has a really good fl oor plan and two slides but one slide is half in the bathroom and half in the bedroom, so it gives more storage space in an area where RVers really want.”
In addition to storage space, Heartland also engineers RVs to maximize headroom wherever possible. They feature a full seven-foot ceiling height, making for taller showers, wardrobes and more overhead storage possibilities.
Gryzbowski says there are other hot selling features that indicate people want to take it with them.
These include portable satellite dishes and camp kitchens – where a cook stove, fridge and sink are all handily located on outside of vehicle.
At Kehoe RV, Darryl Kehoe says Sunset Trail’s Reserve Package is the model of the moment.
“It’s a lightweight travel trailer with a large slide, a champagne exterior and a dark brown exterior. It looks real sharp.”
He says it’s notable for some features that you might not expect in an ordinary RV. “For instance, it has a fireplace that spins so you can choose to have it facing towards either the living room or the bedroom. There’s also a flat screen television that does the same thing.”
Other features include solid-surface countertops, a fully mounted stainless steel sink, an antique nickel faucet, a power package that includes awning, stabilizer and tongue jacks, and leather throughout the interior and furniture.
The bedroom features a queen bed and is styled with Tuscan decor overhead wood cabinets and spacious wardrobes for ample storage.
“Simply put, they just look great,” Kehoe adds, agreeing with the trend. “The features such as fireplaces and large screen TVs used to be features you’d only find on only high-end trailers but they’re more commonplace on all ranges of trailers today. People want to have all of the amenities of home so, as houses get nicer, so do trailers. They’re like luxurious homes on wheels.”
Similarly, Kehoe says the typical customer demographic is changing. “It used to be the market was mainly seniors but now we’re seeing people from all age ranges, including people in their mid-20s.
Everyone wants to get out and do something on the weekends. RVing seems to be the way to do it these days.”
Tom Oakes at TRX RV says the new Earthbound Recreational Vehicles LLC line of trailers is paving the way in the industry.
“Earthbound is a new company that started two years ago with the goal of becoming the logical alternative for Airstream buyers,” he said. “It features high end interiors and exteriors.”
He says those interiors see stunning features like birch wood, enhanced light fixtures, and high gloss walls. Extra aluminum cladding on the exterior gives the RV a unique look.
The overall effect is stunning, he reports. “When people walk into the Earthbound trailers, we hear comments like how much they look more like a yacht than a trailer.”
One of the most outstanding features, Oakes says, is a panoramic front window. “It’s a curved front window so it’s really aerodynamic but they’ve also put in a huge glass window in some models. You can look out but you can also look up and see the sky or stars in the same uninterrupted piece of glass.”
He says another unique product is the Element, a trailer from Evergreen. The completely woodfree trailer is ultra resistant to the rot, mold or mildew that are seriously damaging to most RVs.
At the same time, it’s durable and lightweight, able to be towed by most mini-vans or mid-sized SUV’s.
“With the Element, they’ve created a trailer that doesn’t have the typical chassis frame rail confi guration but instead has an exoskeleton that surrounds the exterior and makes for a very rigid body,” Oakes explains. “That means you buy a 26-foot trailer with a single axle. It’s a very unique product in the market.”
The boarded-up former Wal-Mart building in Gilroy, Calif., vacant for six years, will be home to a new RV dealership.
See Grins RV, located in San Martin, will move its primary lot to the former Wal-Mart property at 7900 Arroyo Circle just north of the Gilroy Unified School District offices possibly by this summer, said dealership owner Randy Scianna, The Gilroy Dispatch reported.
Scianna said the dealership would house 300 to 350 RVs as soon as June 24. The start date, however, would depend on his progress repairing the often-vandalized building.
Scianna said he would have to conduct significant electrical repairs, replace rooftop air conditioning units and install a new security system.
“There’s just a lot of work to be done. That’s the bottom line,” he said.
City Administrator Tom Haglund confirmed the deal in an e-mail sent to the Gilroy City Council Monday afternoon.
“We are particularly excited that See Grins will be occupying this vacant site which will greatly improve and enhance the area,” Haglund wrote.
The 126,000-square-foot former Wal-Mart retail store closed in 2005 when a new, 219,570-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter opened at the Pacheco Pass Shopping Center at 7155 Camino Arroyo. Since then, the property has sat barren, and plans to open a go-cart racetrack there fell through in August 2010.
See Grins is an exclusive Heartland RV dealer that carries new and used model RVs, including travel trailers, fifth-wheels and toy haulers, according to its website. In television advertisements promoting the dealership, a smiling horse says with a twang, “RV with me and see grins with satisfaction.
Scianna said his San Martin location opened three years ago and he plans to keep it running despite moving his main lot to Gilroy. He said he started looking for a new location several months ago because he feared California’s high-speed rail project would gut adjacent land and cause sales to plummet.
Despite the lagging economy, See Grins’ sales soared 84% above the nationwide industry average last year, which itself grew by 42%, Scianna said.
The Gilroy location will include a barbecue area, petting zoo, rental and accessory departments and virtual reality RV displays, which will be shown inside the building, Scianna said.
He said it would be the largest indoor RV showroom west of the Mississippi River.
“Our business has just, quite frankly, exploded, Scianna said. “People are out buying RVs. They are tired of being depressed in these economic times.”
Mayor Al Pinheiro said the dealership not only would make that area more appealing visually, but could also boost Gilroy financially.
“It’s exciting stuff. He’s going to bring an area that’s been blighted for a long time and clean it up,” Pinheiro said. “He will also bring some sales tax to the city.”
Councilman Bob Dillon called the property ideal for an RV location, and said the move could be a sign that Gilroy’s economic state was improving.
“We could be turning around here. It’s encouraging,” Dillon said. “It’s synergistic. It’s great they’re going to have a big business come to town.”
Scianna said See Grins eventually would contribute roughly $1 million in sales taxes to Gilroy each year.
Dan Hudson, of Hudson Jones Commercial Real Estate Property, which owns the old Wal-Mart, and Scianna declined to say how long the deal was for, simply stating it was “a long-term lease.”
“We’ve really made a commitment to that building, that shopping center and that community,” Scianna said.
When asked if he was happy to finally sign an agreement with a tenant, Hudson replied, “Oh yeah, I think that goes without saying.”
Shares of Thor Industries Inc. moved lower Tuesday (Nov. 30) by 12.22% to $29.53 after posting a first-quarter profit increase that missed estimates. Approximately 2.72 million shares traded with market capitalization of $1.65 billion, EFPR reported.
Net income for the first fiscal quarter climbed 1.3% to $23.7 million or 44 cents per diluted share, compared to $23.4 million or 42 cents per share in the prior-year quarter. The reported net income missed the analysts’ estimate of 54 cents a share driven by heavier discounting.
Sales increased 21% to $606.7 million from $502.6 million in the year-ago quarter. RV sales advanced 30% to $506.56 million from $389.93 million last year, benefiting from the remnants of dealer restocking as well as a significantly easier competitive landscape, with many players going out of business or faltering in recent months, which has led to market share gains for Thor. The recently acquired Heartland RV (late September) added $50 million of towable sales. Bus segment sales of $100.12 million were down from last year’s $112.62 million, with orders related to the 2009 economic stimulus having all but flowed through backlog.
The company’s gross margin declined 130bps year over year to 12.6%. The margin was affected by cautious dealer purchasing during the seasonal slowdown and increased promotional activity as manufacturers appear to be aggressively competing for dealer space.
The company also saw incremental expenses of roughly $8.0 million in the quarter related to its Heartland acquisition, an ongoing SEC investigation, and trademark impairment charges related to the combination of its Thor Motor Coach operations.
Thor Industries Inc. today (Nov. 29) announced results for the first quarter ended Oct. 31. Sales for the quarter were $606,684,000, up 21% from $502,552,000 last year, according to a news release. After expenses including those related to the acquisition of Heartland RV on Sept. 16, net income for the quarter was $23,688,000, up 1% from $23,429,000 last year. Earnings per share for the quarter were 44 cents versus 42 cents last year.
RV sales in the quarter were $506,563,000, up 30% from $389,929,000 last year. Towable RV sales in the quarter were $422,449,000, up 23% from $342,136,000 last year. Towable RV sales for the quarter ended October 31, 2010 include $50,119,000 of sales from Heartland RV. Motorized RV sales in the quarter were $84,114,000, up 76% from $47,793,000 last year. Bus segment sales in the quarter were $100,121,000, down 11% from $112,623,000 last year.
RV income before tax in the quarter was $34,104,000, up 8% from $31,642,000 last year. Towable RV income before tax in the quarter was $33,100,000 up 5% from $31,540,000 last year. Motorized RV income before tax in the quarter was $1,004,000, up significantly from $102,000 last year. Bus segment income before tax in the quarter was $9,419,000, up 12% from $8,380,000 last year.
Corporate net costs were $9,737,000 in the quarter versus $2,769,000 last year and included legal and professional expenses related to the acquisition of Heartland RV and the company’s ongoing SEC review totaling $3,503,000. In the towable RV segment, margins were adversely impacted by purchase accounting costs related to the Heartland acquisition, including expensing of inventory step-up costs, amortization of Heartland’s backlog, and amortization of certain intangible assets totaling $2,477,000. In the motorized RV segment, the company incurred a trademark impairment charge of $2,036,000 related to the combination of its Thor Motor Coach operations. Bus segment margins were positively impacted by a gain on involuntary conversion related to property and business interruption insurance. Thor’s lower tax rate in the quarter reflects a favorable state tax settlement.
“In the first quarter Thor invested heavily in growth and future profitability through the acquisition of Heartland RV, capital expenditures of approximately $16,500,000, and development of exciting new products which will be shown at this week’s RVIA Expo in Louisville, KY,” said Peter B. Orthwein, Thor chairman. “Beyond the costs related to Thor’s acquisition of Heartland RV, gross margins were impacted by increased discounting as dealers remained cautious entering the slowest season of the year. Thor’s retail RV sales continue to be strong which is encouraging.”
Discover Canada RV Ltd., an Oshawa, Ontario-based marketing distributor of U.S.-made RVs sold exclusively through Canadian retailers, hosted a successful inaugural RV show Oct. 28 at Le Castel Hotel & Spa in Granby, Quebec, according to Vice President Jory McDonald.
At that show, Discover Canada displayed 30 specially branded towable models built to Canadian specs by several U.S. companies.
McDonald says he and his partners, Joe Jandrisch, Benoit Riberdy, identified a void in the Canadian marketplace in 2007 with regard to value-priced RVs that have a distinct Canadian appeal.
“We’ve negotiated repurchase agreements with all major Canadian wholesale lenders including GECDF, BMO and National Bank of Canada,” he reports. “Indiana RV manufacturers Heartland RV, Crossroads RV, Hyline Enterprises, Kaddy Kruiser and Monaco RV LLC build products for Discover Canada RV, based on our Canadian specifications.”
The firm currently does business with 53 dealers from across Canada and approximately half of them participated in the late October show, McDonald said.
Canadian dealers normally place their orders with U.S. OEMs in January after the Louisville Show, says McDonald, but in some cases have now opted instead to place those orders earlier due to his firm’s efforts.
“We felt it was appropriate to move us forward ahead of the Louisville Show to enable our dealers to buy to avoid backlog and avoid freight issues,” McDonald said. “We wanted our dealers to get ahead of the wave of orders. They experienced delays in getting 2010 product, and we couldn’t afford to let that happen again.”
“We plan to do this again next year, but it might be a bit earlier,” he added.
Quebec was chosen as the site for the first show because Discover Canada has a strong following there, McDonald noted.
“Our success comes from offering our dealers a number of unique but strong advantages that they cannot receive directly from a U.S. manufacturer,” said McDonald.
Among them, he adds, is the fact that the company deals in products built to specifications and tastes of Canadian consumer and offers larger territories for greater dealer profits. Other selling points: Aggressive marketing material and an effective website, a Canadian parts and warranty department and Canadian territory representatives who understand each unique Canadian market area.
For more information, go to www.discovercanadarv.com.
Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter on Tuesday following release of the first quarter financial results of Thor Industries Inc. Excerpts of that newsletter folllow.
Raising estimates and maintaining $36 target price. Preliminary sales topped expectations, leaving us confident in our profit outlook. We see good value in Thor under 12x EPS (excluding nearly $3/share in cash) as macro catalysts unfold (election cycle and tax policy) and estimates trend higher (better retail and higher margin).
RV sales exceed expectations. Thor reported preliminary sales for the October quarter after the close, following its customary process. Sales of $607 million (+21%) exceeded our $591 million estimate and consensus of $586 million. RV sales increased 30% to $507 million, above our $472 million estimate. We estimate that Heartland RV added $45 million to revenue, implying organic RV growth near 19%. Bus sales fell 11% to $100 million, below our $119 million estimate.
Backlog down. The backlog declined modestly, down 22% YOY to $467 million. RV backlog fell to $254 million, down 19% from last year and down 3% sequentially. Without Heartland RV, the backlog would have been down more, of course. Bus backlog fell 25% YOY to $213 million, and fell 6% sequentially. Management noted that right-sized dealer inventory levels led to lower and more reasonable RV backlog, while bus backlog slowed due to the expiration of federal stimulus funding and tighter government budgets. We are raising our revenue estimate slightly, but maintaining our outlook for EPS of $2.50 in F2011.
Retail positive, likely hinges on tax policy. Retail improved in late summer and early fall. CEO Peter Orthwein noted, “Thor’s internal retail sales results through October continue to demonstrate solid year-over-year increases.” We see an extension of current tax policy as a potential near-term catalyst for retail demand.
To subscribe to this or other Baird newsletters, contact Craig R. Kennison CFA, email@example.com or call (414) 765-3870.
Heartland’s new Prowler towables, a brand name that harkens back for decades as one of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s towable mainstays, will consist of a wood-and-aluminum travel trailers and laminated travel trailers and mid-profile fifth-wheels when the line is up and running.
The new Prowler brand is still in its infancy after a brief cameo trade appearance in early October at the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association International Con/Expo. “We haven’t shipped one Prowler yet,” said Prowler General Manager Nick Eppert. “We’re really going to take the month of November to hand-select some key dealers. We are taking a long-term approach to this brand and do not intend on flooding the market with dealers.”
”This strategy should help to ensure our dealers’ and the Prowler brands’ success in the marketplace.”
Eppert says the Prowler, one of several Fleetwood brands purchased out of the former Fleetwood’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, will be the only ex-Fleetwood line at Louisville.
“It’s an all-encompassing brand from mid-profile fifth-wheels down to ‘stick-and-tin-trailers,’ which makes it unique,” Eppert added. “And it gives us a totally different look. It’s going to have new wood grain interiors and certain select features that you won’t find in any of our other brands.”
Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter after this week’s release of the August towable sales figures by Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI). Excerpts from the Baird Newsletter follow.
U.S. towable registrations increased 11% in August. Dealer sales of towable units increased for the sixth consecutive month in August. Total U.S. towable retail increased 11% (travel trailers up 11%; fifth-wheels up 11%) compared to an 8% drop in motorhomes. Looking to the remainder of 2010, we expect approximately 10-15% retail growth in towables, with Thor taking share.
Towable retail up 11%. Towable demand improved in August. Travel trailer registrations grew 11% while fifth-wheel demand also increased 11%. Towable sales outpaced motorhome sales which fell 8% in August.
Leaders gaining share. Thor continues to take share with retail registrations up 16% in the month. We also note that Heartland RV (No.4 market share and recently acquired by Thor [THO-$31.52-Outperform]) saw registrations increase 41%. Altogether the top five manufacturers have seen retail grow 20% YTD versus 8% YTD industry growth.
Inventory. Dealers have increased towable inventory in 2010 as towable shipments have exceeded retail sales. We believe that dealer inventory is fairly balanced at current levels and future shipments should track in line with retail demand.
Retail SAAR. We calculate a seasonally adjusted rate of retail (SAAR) registrations. The SAAR of towable demand increased to 159.K units in August from 153.6K units in July.
Recent news. Winnebago (WGO-$9.74-Outperform) indicated today (Oct. 18) that it is looking to acquire SunnyBrook RV, the No. 13 player in towables with 1% share.
To subscribe to this or other Baird publications, contact Craig R. Kennison, CFA, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (414) 765-3870.