Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC announced the signing of an agreement to acquire Holiday on Wheels, an existing RV dealership in Panama City, Fla., in the next 90 to 120 days with an official grand opening a few months later.
According to a news release, plans are for the location to undergo expansion to renovate into larger facility including additional service bays, a new Camping World retail store and a state-of-the-art collision center.
“We are pleased to begin the acquisition of Holiday on Wheels and expand our market share throughout Florida,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam. “We are no stranger to the state of Florida and with all the activities Panama City offers — shopping, boating, hiking, fishing, state parks, and so much more, bringing a full-service RV supercenter to better serve the RV industry makes sense and completes our presence in the Panhandle.”
The new location will be officially named Camping World of Panama City and represents the third Camping World RV supercenter in the Panhandle, with nearby locations in Tallahassee and Gulf Breeze.
“We expect the Panama City market along with its close proximity to the major tourist areas of Destin and Fort Walton to allow us to broaden our customer reach, build upon our market leadership position in recreational sales, and make Camping World the leading retailer in the growing outdoor market,” continued Lemonis.
The new outlet will add to Camping World’s future growth plans and the company expects to soon announce several additional markets of expansion throughout the country. The company will also be adding new positions for seasoned and professional RV sales associates, technicians and retail support to join current employees at the Holiday on Wheels location as the facility expands.
Viking RV has signed more than 30 new dealers to represent its Viking or Coachmen Clipper brands of tent trailers during the first four months of this year.
”We have added a ‘Who’s Who’ of new dealers from across the nation, from Freedom RV in Washington to Holiday on Wheels in Florida, and from Campers Inn in New England to Happy Daze in California” said Jerry Sell, national sales manager for the Forest River Inc. subsidiary in Centerville, Mich., according to a news release.
“The current economic situation and the trend toward smaller, more economical tow vehicles is creating a new audience for our products,” Sell said. “Dealers are also recognizing that this customer is the first-time buyer, and could lead to more business as their customer follows the traditional trade-up pattern.
“Viking has been manufacturing tent trailers for almost 40 years, and dealers appreciate the attention to detail and innovative features that only a manufacturer focused on tent trailers can provide.”
RV sales are up locally and nationwide for the first time in more than a year, showing the economy is recovering from a deep recession, industry leaders say.
“We’re seeing a lot more sales than we did,” David Meadows, owner of Holiday on Wheels of Panama City, Fla., told the city’s News Herald.
RV sales fell when the recession hit in 2007. Seeing those sales stabilize — at least on the towable side — means people are willing to spend again, said Dave Kelly, Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) marketing director. Higher sale volumes show the economy is recovering, and people are more confident, he said.
“All indications are that traffic has been good and that people are finally starting to open their wallets,” Kelly said.
Two years ago, RV dealership owners weren’t sure their businesses were going to survive 2008. Several went out of business locally, said Ray O’Keefe, general manager at another Panama City dealership, RV Connections. Business fell about 40% nationwide, O’Keefe said.
Even in Florida — a place where tourists and snowbirds love to buy RVs — sales plummeted. O’Keefe said what was once a robust business fell dramatically when the recession hit. Nationwide, banks seized dealers’ inventory or dealerships closed up shop permanently. A glut of inventory flooded the market, which is just now being worked through.
“If they made it through the last year, they are starting to celebrate because they made it through the worst year ever,” O’Keefe said.
About eight months ago sales began picking up across the board, Meadows and O’Keefe said. Kelly said the number of sales is up, but dealers still are making less on sales.
Sales aren’t anywhere close to the peak of 2006 but are about what was selling in 2007, dealers said. The difference is dealerships are starting to order inventory. RV Connections is ordering new inventory for the first time in a year and a half.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) released numbers showing sales rose 16% from July to August nationwide this year. Sales are projected to jump 26.5% next year, according to the association’s website. Florida numbers are not available currently, Kelly said.
Enough orders for new motorhomes are rolling in that it is creating a backlog for 2010 orders, Kelly said. The real test for whether RV sales in Florida are rising will be when the association holds its RV convention in January, he said. Currently, dealers say they see increased traffic and sales, he said.
People might be buying RVs more because gas prices are lower and summer homes are less attractive because the housing market crashed, said Rick Harper, the University of West Florida’s Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development.
The uptick is just one of many recent indicators the local economy is climbing out of the recession, said Janet Watermeier, Bay County Economic Development Alliance executive director.
“These are really good signals that we’ve turned the tide,” Watermeier said.