The crowds and exhibits were smaller than last year, but manufacturers reported brisk sales at the California RV Show that ended Sunday (Oct. 24) at the Fairplex in Pomona.
”We saw a definite upswing in retail traffic,” said Bryan Walczak, product manager for Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC’s Elk Ridge and Big Country fifth-wheels. ”The biggest thing that we sensed this year over last is that there were more qualified buyers than people who were coming just to look and see.”
Walczak reported that Heartland’s dealer — McMahon’s RV, Los Angeles — sold a considerable number of the Elkhart, Ind.,-based manufacturer’s fifth-wheels during the show.
Attendance at the 11-day Pomona Show was 19,194, a drop of 9% from 2008. And spacewise, this year’s show booked 404,360 square feet of space compared to 857,904 last year, according to Mary ” Mike” Hutya, vice president of meetings and shows for the sponsoring Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
And 21 dealer were represented at the show. ”I was pleased that the dealers started reporting right away that they were making sales and that they were seeing more qualified buyers,” Hutya said.
”We did well; we were up over last year,” said Mark Rosenbaum, sales director for Mike Thompson’s RV, Santa Fe Springs, which represented Keystone, Itasca, Tiffin, Forest River Georgetown and Fleetwood brands at Pomona.
”We didn’t know what to expect. We had better buyers and we saw much better credit than we saw at Pomona last year. People came in with the intent to buy.”
”It was a tough crowd, but we were able to hold our own,” said David Middleton, Gulf Stream Coach Inc.’s national sales manager for motorized. ”We sold a few. It’s all about price right now.”
The Nappanee, Ind.-based manufacturer’s dealer — RV Peddler, Bakersfield, Calif. — displayed 10 Gulf Stream Conquest Class C and Montaj Class A motorhomes.
Sid Johnson, marketing director for Jayco Inc., Middlbury, Ind., said it was apparent that attendance was down.
Nonetheless, he said, Richardson’s RV Center, Los Angeles, sold more than twice the Jayco units than it did at the 2008 Pomona Show.
”The people who did attend the show were very interested in buying,” Johnson said. ”The interesting thing is that interest was across the board — from motorhomes to folding camping trailers. There didn’t seem to be any product type that was moving faster than any other. It was pretty encouraging.”
After years of popping up a tent for camping trips, Tom Carlson of West Covina, Calif., is ready for an RV.
But as it turns out, the years of “tenting-it” may have been worth the wait for Carlson, who with his son Alexander walked among mobile giants on Tuesday (Aug. 18) next to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
McMahon’s RV — a large RV dealer based in Irvine — is currently holding its second RV show and blow-out sale, an event that runs through Sunday, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
That attracted Carlson and his son.
“Everybody’s looking for a good deal,” said Carlson, as his son browsed the inside of a trailer. “And nowadays, with the way the economy is …”
The way the economy is has created a market for buyers, who by 11 a.m. at the lot adjacent to the Rose Bowl began trickling in for the 10-day sale, which started Aug. 13.
Families looking to take a year off of work and roam the country meandered among 40-plus-foot motorhomes. Others looked for more modest trailers. The dealer was even offering “clunker” deals.
It helped that prices were completely slashed. Many of the 200 or so motorhomes and trailers on the lot were repossessions or liquidated inventory that McMahon’s bought up and put back on the market at greatly reduced prices.
In the midst of recession, well known companies such as Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Monaco Coach Corp. filed for bankruptcy had to liquidate, and McMahon’s swooped in to pickup the inventory. All told, RVs from about 17 manufacturers were on the lot.
And salesmen were looking to make some deals.
One RV – a Providence Class A – would have sold for $280,000 last year. But this year it’s going for $130,000, one of the salesmen said. While foot traffic to the event is slow during the week, the weekends have been busy, owner Brent McMahon said.
And he and others say they are seeing signs of life in the RV market, which has been hit hard during what is now a year-and-half-long recession. By December, sales of RVs had decreased more than 50% compared to the year before.
But salesman Dennis Hickman said the market is beginning to reset itself, and customers are beginning to come back, as the market begins to make its way up from the bottom.
One sign is that customers are beginning to buy more expensive motorhomes instead of trailers, salesmen said.
“It’s been tough, just like any industry,” McMahon said. “People are going to put off their dreams for only so long.”
The event continues until Aug. 23.