Time away from work and time spent relaxing is so sacred that not even a spike at the pumps can detour Iowans from their summer travel plans.
As reported by the Quad City Times, Davenport, experts in the travel and recreation businesses said while rising gasoline prices will not cause travelers to call off their vacations or getaways, the additional costs will prompt them to find savings in other areas.
“Most people when they set travel plans don’t plan last minute, especially if they have plans at the national parks or have purchased airline tickets. So that they rarely cancel their plans,” said Gail Weinholzer, spokeswoman for AAA Minnesota/Iowa.
“They will make up for it in other ways,” she said. “They may eat at cheaper restaurants or cut back on the other spending.”
Likewise, fuel prices seem to be having little impact on those in the market for a recreational vehicle, two Quad-City RV dealers said.
“It may affect how far people travel for the weekend, but it doesn’t affect if they are going to make a decision to purchase an RV or not,” said John Dresselhaus, the owner of US Adventure RV, Davenport. In fact, he said the industry finally has rebounded from the recession.
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Iowa-based Webster City RV announced the acquisition of Diamond Trail RV along with an expansion that will add six bays to its service center to increase capacity.
According to a news release, Diamond Trail RV, located in Bevington, Iowa, is a full-service dealership that offers an on-site campground for customers. The retailer represents the third dealership operated by Webster City RV, along with Story City RV just north of Ames.
Webster City RV General Manager Adam Ruppell noted, “These three dealerships form the RV Outfitter Network and provide RVers all over the state a network of dealers dedicated to bringing the best in RV sales and service to an ever-growing population of campers throughout Iowa.”
Webster City RV moved to its present location in December 2000. Since then it has grown to sell nearly 500 RVs a year while maintaining a focus on service.
“The additional bays will allow us to keep up with the growing demand and keep Webster City RV in the forefront of RV Service,” Ruppell said.
Completion of the service expansion is expected to be done by March 2013.
The following is an excerpt from The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, examining a boost in RV sales, according to several of the state’s prominent dealers. To read the entire article click here.
The vacation is over for the “vacation business” as people are again buying recreational vehicles in Iowa.
“RVs are a discretionary item. You don’t have to have an RV,’’ said Jeff Englebart, co-owner of Lasso E RV of Anamosa. “Right now our sales are up. (Business) is improving and has gotten better each year, but it’s not where it was in the mid-2000s.”
Sales for the high-volume travel trailer sector edged up 2.1% in June, according to the latest Statistical Surveys Inc. report.
“We’ve kind of bucked the (economic) trend here in Eastern Iowa. We’ve been able to run strong through it all. We’ve felt very fortunate,” said Gary Ketelsen, of Ketelsen RV in Hiawatha, now in its 50th year in business. “Unemployment is lower (here). We are also in an area where core family values are still important. In the Midwest, people still see the need for family get-togethers.”
RVs are one way for families to go camping, without having to rough it.
“A lot of peoples’ idea of camping is the Marriott — they want the comforts of home. People want to stay comfortable, but they still want to enjoy nature,” Englebart said.
Some do make comfort concessions.
“We’ve had some people request that we take the TVs out of units,” Englebart added.
Ketelsen RV sells the gamut of RVs, from pickup campers to motorhomes. (The motorhomes aren’t kept in stock but can be ordered.)
For $80,000, for example, there’s a fairly plush 39-foot fifth-wheel, with a raised living room/den and sculpted wood trim, three TVs — including a 40-inch set — an electric fireplace, two leather couches, storage, a king-sized bed, freezer-refrigerator, stove, microwave, a bathroom, plus five slideout areas that can be expanded at the push of a button.
But the meat and potatoes of Ketelsen’s business are 27-foot travel trailers that sleep six adults and cost about $18,000 to $20,000.
Amenities include a regular bed, bunks, a full bath with tub-shower combination, microwave oven, refrigerator, TV, rollout canopies and air conditioning.
Lasso E carries a full line of pickup campers, travel trailers, fifth-wheels and motorhomes. An entry-level travel trailer — at 16 to 17 feet, 3,500 pounds, fully equipped and self-contained — are the most affordable at $8,600 to $8,700, Engelbart said.
But most customers want something larger, so the bulk of Lasso E’s business is larger travel trailers in the $15,000 to $35,000 price range.
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A leader at Flexsteel Industries Inc. in Dubuque, Iowa, said this overall downturn in the RV industry is lasting longer than expected, according to a report by Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
“We thought we would have seen a greater turnaround by this time than what we have,” said Ron Klosterman, president and CEO of Flexsteel, in a conference call with investors following the release of a company earnings report last month.
The Dubuque-based furniture maker makes RV materials, along with other commercial and residential products. The company’s sales of RV materials have faltered in recent years, in 2009 falling a staggering 71% compared to 2008. Some improvement was evident by 2010, when Flexsteel’s vehicle seating sales were up, although the commercial sales category as a whole dropped 14% in year-to-year comparisons.
In the most recent quarter, Flexsteel reported a 32% increase in net income, a company record. Income rose from $2.5 million in the third quarter of last year to $3.3 million. That rise was largely driven by residential net sales; commercial sales were relatively flat.
Although the recreational vehicle industry has historically seen some substantial dips in volume, the business typically bounces back with “pretty good strength,” according to Klosterman.
“This is a little bit different than what has happened in the past. We are having a harder time seeing when that jump in volume might happen,” he said.
Klosterman said the industry’s original equipment manufacturers aren’t producing as much as the Dubuque firm would like to see and the industry’s trade organization is projecting growth in the low single digits for the balance of calendar 2012.
“Even their optimism is pretty temperate,” Klosterman said.
But at Couler Valley RV in Dubuque, last month was a record breaker. “We had a great, absolutely fabulous April. We grossed the most we’ve ever grossed in 24 years,” said Doug Gauer, who owns Couler Valley.
The business recently hired two new employees, which Gauer said were the first hires in about seven years. He attributed the strong month in part to the unseasonably warm spring weather.
“Good weather does spark a lot of enthusiasm for going camping,” Gauer said.
Similarly, in recent weeks business has slowed slightly as the weather has cooled.
But Gauer said other factors have contributed to Couler Valley’s perseverance, like a long-standing history of service in the community and the status of the overall Dubuque economy.
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Le Mars, Iowa dealership Fedders Marine & RV was approved for a tax rebate by the county supervisors on its proposed expansion and relocation.
According to the Le Mars Daily Sentinel, the supervisors approved a five-year partial tax rebate, not to exceed $55,000, for the development, contingent upon the creation of two full-time job positions with a combined salary of at least $62,000. Under the rebate agreement Fedders will pay full taxes on his estimated $1 million expansion but receive a rebate back for a specified percentage of those dollars.
Since the location of Fedders’ proposed development on Highway 75 is in a Joint Urban Renewal Area shared by the county and the city of Le Mars, both government bodies had to approve Fedders’ tax rebate. The Le Mars City Council approved the measure at its April 3 meeting.
County Auditor Stacey Feldman explained Fedders’ tax rebate will start when the property has reached its full assessment, which is expected as of Jan. 1, 2014.
Feldman also noted the maximum rebate is $55,000 and once that amount is reached, even if it’s before the end of the five-year agreement, the rebate will end.
An Iowa RV and marine dealer is asking for a reduction in taxes to help with construction of a new facility, according to a report in the Le Mars Daily Sentinel.
Matt Fedders, owner of Fedders Marine & RV in Le Mars, presented his request to the county board of supervisors Tuesday (March 6) detailing his plans to construct a 16,200-square-foot building north of the intersection of Highway 75 and 60.
Since the Highway 75 location is in a Joint Urban Renewal (JUR) Area shared by the county and the city of Le Mars, the supervisors directed Fedders to present his request to the JUR board at its March 19 meeting. That board was established to help county and Le Mars city officials promote economic development in Le Mars and nearby rural areas that are part of the JUR District.
Fedders told the county supervisors Tuesday he plans to go ahead with constructing the new facility, with or without an incentive from the county. “I’m just asking for a little help on the tax side of it,” he said.
Fedders said his plans include constructing an approximately $810,000 facility on 13 acres of land, which cost $185,000. The new facility will have a service area with a wash bay, an office/sales area, storage and an inside show room for RVs, he explained.
“It will have very efficient laminated side wall,” Fedders said. “That’s one thing we are kind of going for, to be very energy efficient.” To make that happen, he is applying for grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program, Fedders said.
Building a new, larger facility in a new location is a necessity to keep up with growth of the RV business, Fedders said. “With this new facility, I’m thinking it should be no problem to increase our sales at least by $1.3 million, which brings total sales close to $6 million,” he said. “Obviously we want to keep growing from there.”
A larger facility also means the addition of at least two more employees with an estimated salary cost of $31,000, Fedders said. Currently Fedders Marine & RV employs four full-time and two part-time people, he said.
Fedders Marine & RV will be moving into a larger location in the coming year, according to a report by the Le Mars Daily Sentinel.
“We’ve been growing, our sales are up and we are just running out of room here,” said Matt Fedders, CEO for the Le Mars-based towable dealer. “The campers are getting bigger and the building is not tall enough any more, so we need a bigger facility that will accommodate the bigger campers.”
Serving customers is the focus of the move for Fedders, which offers RV sales and service along with boat repair. “I think it’s going to be easier to serve our customers with more space, easier parking and easier access,” Fedders said.
Fedders said he has been considering a move for a few years and decided on a location near the Highway 75 bypass, which will give the dealership higher visibility.
“I’m hoping the bypass will attract passersby because I think we lost some of that when we had the bypass come around Le Mars,” Fedders said.
The new location will also provide more space, said Micah Salter, Fedders sales and finance manager. “That’s definitely going to be the biggest benefit and it’s going to be easier for people to pull in with the big RVs,” Fedders explained.
With new buildings and an inside showroom, Fedders plans to increase inventory for the business, which has customers nationwide.
“We’ll carry more products for customers to look at,” Fedders said. “One of our main goals is to have 30 units in an indoor showroom.”
Other plans for the new location include eventually having storage for RVs available year-round and to offer campsites. “We might sell a camper to somebody from Washington state,” Salter said. “They can come, stay in their RV overnight to try it out and travel on home.”
A Midwest location has been a plus for his business, Fedders said.
“Regardless of what everybody says about the economy, our RV business has been strong,” Fedders said.
RV manufacturer Crossroads Inc. just named Fedders Marine & RV the largest Cruiser RV dealer in the nation, he said.
He attributes the popularity of recreational vehicles to family.
“You can buy a camper and camp the whole summer every weekend going out and having fun,” he said. “When you take a trip to Disneyland, your vacation money is spent for the whole summer.”
His father, Marv, started the business 60 plus years ago, Fedders said. “We’re a family-run business and we try to treat everyone like family,” he said.
Currently, there are five full-time and two part-time employees. In addition to support from his wife, Julie, Fedders said the staff includes Leroy Walhberg as service manager and Glenda Fedders as title clerk.
“We’re hoping the change in location will allows us to better help our customers with their needs,” Salter said.