Top

RV Sales Gaining Ground, Up 21% in Michigan

October 25, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Michigan’s recreational vehicle market is on the mend.

The state, with its retiree population and vast array of campgrounds, is seeing RV sales recover a faster pace than the nation overall, the Lansing State Journal reported.

“There’s been a demand, even through the bad periods of late 2008 through 2009, on the part of consumers who are looking for an economical way to travel with their families on vacations,” said Bill Sheffer, director of Okemos-based Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC).

Towable trailers lead sales

There were 6,683 recreational vehicles — including motorhomes and towable trailers — sold in Michigan this year through August 2010, according to Grand Rapids-based Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI). That’s up nearly 21% from the 5,542 sold a year earlier. Towable trailers accounted for the bulk of those sales.

“Even though Michigan has high unemployment, (the state’s residents) have a lot of buying power with people who are on retirement,” said Tom Walworth, general manager of Statistical Surveys.

The state’s jobless rate stood at 13% in September, compared with 9.6% for the nation.

Nationwide sales also grew, but at a slower pace. Dealers sold 135,158 new recreational vehicles through August, up more than 4% from the 129,654 sold during the same period a year earlier.

Michigan sales are likely are boosted by its network of 80,000 campsites in more than 1,200 state- and privately run campgrounds, Sheffer said.

But the past few years have not been leisurely for dealers.

Statewide, sales dropped 50% from 2000 to 2009, with the decline starting around 2005, according to MARVAC.

Stock market impact

The financing crunch has dealt a blow to the industry. Banks have been less willing to offer loans for RVs, though some dealers say the credit crunch is starting to ease, Sheffer said.

And the stock market has had an impact on sales, even more than gas prices, said Gennene Kitsmiller, general manager of Kitsmiller RV in Mason, a Lansing suburb.

Most of her customers are retirees on fixed incomes or are close to retirement and relying on investments, she said. Sales suffered when the market declined during the financial crisis and recession but have been rising as Wall Street improves.

In fact, the past two years have been the dealer’s best since it opened in 1961, Kitsmiller said. The store sold more than 400 RVs in 2009, up 67% from 2008 — many of them the towable variety.

Customers are looking for “more sensible” purchases in the $30,000 to $35,000 range. These tend to be lighter and easier to tow in order to get better fuel economy, she said.

Not all dealers have fared as well. Some have closed or merged into larger companies, Sheffer said.

Slow sales forced Greg Dennis to stop selling new RVs in January 2009. Dennis RV Center now focuses on service and parts. It also rents travel trailers and sells used trailers and motorhomes. The Lansing business has been family owned since 1964.

“Sales have been down and that was a big thing,” Dennis said.

“We had to make a decision to either ramp up our inventory … or concentrate on the customer service end.”

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Positive Report: Detroit Camper & RV Show

October 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Following are excerpts from a story posted by Great Lakes Camper and distributed by RV.net. Click here to read the entire blog and for links to related stories and videos.

By all accounts, the recent Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show was a huge success. From day one, when people waited 90 minutes for the show to officially open its doors, to day five, when it was shoulder-to-shoulder people enjoying bumper-to-bumper RVs, the show was a good one — and certainly the best in the last few years.

I went to the show for four of its five days and tried to talk to as many people as I could. I also tried to get inside as many RVs as I could. What follows is my recap.

The RV dealers I talked to said they sold a lot of campers, or at least made some good leads for future sales. Bill Sheffer, director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), said across the state RV sales are up 16% over the previous year.

Vendors said people were very receptive to what they were offering, including Rick Stafford of River Ridge RV Resort. On the first day he was somewhat lukewarm about the show, but by the fifth day he was extremely pleased. He said three couples were so enamored with his amenities-laden RV resort that they took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and drove the three hours from Detroit to Stanwood, Mich., to take a look around.

And everyone attending the show looked like they were very much enjoying the true stars of the show — the 200-plus RVs lined up in row after row of camperpalooza goodness.

“We generally come to all these shows,” said Jim Felmlee of Rochester, Mich., who was at the show with his wife, Karen. “We enjoy seeing all the new RVs. We already own our own RV, but generally we come to see all the new features and one we really like are the outdoor kitchens.”

“You know, when you’re camping, you spend all your time outside anyways,” Karen added. “So an outdoor kitchen makes perfect sense.”

Another couple I ran into was Geraldine Laczek of Macomb Township, Michigan and her daughter-in-law Debby Laczek, of Metamora, Michigan. Like the Felmlees, they already owned their own RVs and were at the show just to enjoy all the new models. They, too, liked the outdoor kitchens, and Debby, a fifth-wheel owner, said the Montana with the up-front living room also caught her attention.

Bob Dunn, president of the southeast Michigan Winnebago owners club, was telling me about the Motor City Winnies when he mentioned that the Winnebago Journey diesel motorhome behind him was bought earlier that day by two other members of the Motor City Winnies, Skip and Nancy Yates of Rochester Hills, Mich.

Naturally, I found the Yateses inside their new coach. The two had perma-grins on their faces as they greeted everyone who came aboard. They happily told people they had just bought that motor home, but feel free to gently look around.

A few aisles over I found Denny Powlison, from Adrian, Mich. He brought his wife to the show in the hopes she might catch the RV camping bug. He said she had only been camping once, in a sleeping bag under the stars — not even a tent — so he was skeptical. But she fell in love with a Rockwood Minilite No. 1809S travel trailer, and they’ll be back to the February show to make the purchase.

As mentioned earlier, most people I talked to said the outdoor kitchens were a big hit with them.

Other innovations and features — some not necessarily new but improved upon — that caught my eye were:

  • Second bathrooms. Many of the bunkhouses now have floorplans featuring a second bathroom for the kiddies. And many of these have a second door from the outside providing direct access to this bathroom. What a great idea! Instead of tramping through the entire camper just to get to the bathroom, all you need to do is open the door, take a couple of steps, do your business and get out. No tracking sand and dirt through the camper, and I bet fewer mosquitoes make it inside, too.
  • Skylights directly over showers. Again, not a new concept at all. But it seems manufacturers are designing these to better follow the shape of the showers so more natural light fills the shower and bathroom. I especially noticed this in the fifth-wheels and motor homes that had corner shower units.
  • Kitchen cabinet/counter extensions. Mostly in Class A motor homes and larger fifth-wheels, these are the cabinet/counter extensions that you pull out to dramatically increase the counter space and cabinet storage.
  • Outside televisions. As we all know, the flat-screen TV has been a huge innovation for the RV Industry. Whereas before the old picture-tube TVs took up 3-feet of depth by however wide the TV was, flat screens decreased that depth to a mere 3-5 inches. Suddenly, TV cabinets were smaller, freeing up space for other things, like storage, bigger TVs, etc. The flat-screens also made it easier to mount on the outside of a motor home, hidden behind a flip-up door, to watch ESPN Game Day while tailgating.
  • Universal, Portable TV Mounts. I saw this on one of Dan White’s travel trailers in the H.W. Motor Homes display. The camper had three TV mounts, one outside, one in the bedroom and the third in the living area. The articulated arm that inserted into the mounts was securely attached to the TV, making it easy to move the TV-and-arm to and from any of the three areas of the camper. A simple tab locked the arm into the mount, and antenna/cable and power connections were located at each mount.

The coolest RV innovation I saw at the show was the slide-within-a-slide in the 2011 Monaco Diplomat motorhome. John Monterusso of American RV in Grand Rapids, Mich., was gracious enough to meet me before the show opened on Thursday for an exclusive tour of this incredible motor home.

The slide-within-a-slide is exactly what the term implies. On the driver’s side of the coach is a slide with the refrigerator, dinette and couch. A push of a button extends that slide 3 feet out of the coach. Then, another push of a button extends a second slide, this one containing just the dinette and the couch, out another 2 feet. The whole process takes about 40 seconds, and the interior space it creates is very impressive, especially since another 3-foot slide is on the opposite side of the coach.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Detroit Camper & RV Show Set for Oct. 6-10

September 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

rvshow-logo-detroit-fall-2010The Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) is sponsoring the 21st Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show, Oct. 6-10 at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi. Over 200 new recreation vehicles will be on display including folding campers, motorhomes, travel trailers, truck campers, park models and fifth-wheels.

Special discounts include folding campers from $4,999; trailers from $8,999; and motorhomes from $49,999, plus, manufacturer rebates on select RVs. Booths featuring parts and accessories, campground information, on-site RV financing and RV rentals make this the complete RV show experience, according to a news release.

At the show, visitors may enter a contest to win the Ultimate MIS Race Experience package from Michigan International Speedway. It includes tickets, camping and VIP access  and is valued at nearly $3,000.

The show will be held at the Rock Financial Showplace and is open weekdays 2-9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Call (517) 349-8881 or visit www.marvac.org for additional information on the RV show.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Michigan RV Park Owners/Dealers Honored

May 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

RV dealers and campground owners Betty and Bill Workman shown here with 2009 Miss Michigan, Nicole Blaszczyk.

RV dealers and campground owners Betty and Bill Workman shown here with 2009 Miss Michigan, Nicole Blaszczyk.

Bill and Betty Workman, owners of Vacation Trailer Park campground and Vacation Trailer RV Sales in Benzonia, Mich, were honored May 6 at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference “Driving Tourism” held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

The Workmans were given a “Stars of the Industry Award,” designating them as Seasonal Operators of the Year for their campground.

The Workmans have owned Vacation Trail Park campground in Benzonia for 42 years. They are also the owners of Vacation Trailer Sales, an RV sales business. Gov. Beverly Granholm selected this campground twice for a weekend camping and fishing trip with her family.

The Workmans have both served on the board of directors for the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC). The Workmans have also served on the board of the Benzie County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Over the span of their careers, they have served as volunteers on MARVAC’s Strategic Planning and RV Show as well as numerous other tourism-related committees.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

SSI’s Walworth to Address Michigan Association

March 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Tom Walworth

Tom Walworth

Tom Walworth, president of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Statistical Surveys Inc., is one of the featured speakers at the April 14 Spring Education Program sponsored by the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVC). The program will be held in the MARVAC Conference Center in Okemos, Mich.

Walworth will lead off the morning program and review the activity of RV sales around Michigan, looking at price points, sizes, gas vs. diesel and more. He will look at trends and share his experienced view of the 2010 RV selling season. Campground owners will be interested in what RV owners will be pulling into Michigan campgrounds this season.

The other session will be led by Traci Smith, Michigan program director for the USDA Rural Development Commercial Loan Guarantee Program. Smith will outline the program which provides loans at variable or fixed rates for real estate, equipment purchases and working capital. Eligible businesses must be located in rural communities less than 50,000 population. Smith will walk through the program answering questions regarding amounts, lending institutions and loan use purposes.

For more information on the USDA program, go to http://eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov/eligibility/welcomeAction.do.

For more information about the MARVAC event, contact Event Manager Debra Behrendt at (800) 422-6478 ext. 20.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Northwest Michigan RV Show is March 26-28

February 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

398984_RV-C_logo_mh_rgbThe Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) is sponsoring the 18th Annual Northwest Michigan Camper & RV Show, March 26-28, 2010, at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center in downtown Traverse City, Mich.

Over 50 new recreation vehicles will be on display, including folding campers, motorhomes, travel trailers and fifth-wheel travel trailers. Booths featuring a large selection of parts and accessories, campground information, on site RV financing and RV rentals will be featured, according to a press release.

The new 2010 RV & Campsite, a guide to camping in Michigan, will be available free to consumers.

The show is sponsored by the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), a member organization representing all aspects of the camping and RV industries.

For more information, visit www.marvac.org.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Consumers in ‘Buying Mood’ at Detroit RV Show

February 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Recreational vehicle dealers had cause to smile at this past weekend’s annual Detroit Camper and RV Show. The four-day event was packed morning to night, every day, according to ABC News.

Attendance at this year’s Detroit show was up 15% over last year. Industry insiders are encouraged by the enthusiasm after a big slump last year.

And the families who came to see everything from small pop-up camp vehicles to 40-foot luxury coaches with bathrooms, refrigerators and built-in barbecues were in a buying mood.

“Things have been great,” Chad Neff, general manager of American RV in Grand Rapids, Mich., said. “The traffic has been good and people are buying.”

American RV sells a full range of recreational vehicles from small economic campers to the fifth-wheel Montana, which has an interior floorplan that seems almost as large as a studio apartment. Neff, like many other RV dealers at the show, attributed increased industry sales to the improvement in the availability of credit.

“I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” he said. “People right now, they’re willing to get out, and the banks are lending more money, and those things are helping us out.”

The increased interest is a dramatic change from last year’s show, which occurred amid the backdrop of a weakened U.S. economy and uncertainty about the future. RV enthusiasts weren’t buying because of job insecurity and the prospects of losing their homes, leaving little appetite for mobile ones. Several RV manufacturers filed for bankruptcy early last year and even industry giant Winnebago Industries Inc. had a rough go at it.

The RV industry has long been thought of as a good indicator of the overall economy’s performance because RVs are a major discretionary purchase that often require financing. After a sales slump, which coincided with the worsening economy, and an overall lack of enthusiasm at RV shows last year, 2010 has started with a boom for the industry. Attendance at this year’s Novi, Mich., show was up about 15% from last year, according to show director Bill Sheffer, who is with the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds.

“We’re encouraged by what we see,” Sheffer said this weekend. “I’m not an economist but I sure hope this is a harbinger of good things to come.”

Attendance was also strong at two other important RV shows last month. The annual Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show was up 26% from last year and the Florida RV Super Show surpassed 50,000 for the first time in the history of the show, according to organizers.

The Florida show is one of the most important indicators of retail demand for the industry, analysts and insiders say.

“A year ago this time, financing was terrible,” said John Monterusso, a Michigan motorhome dealer. “People’s existing RVs took a beating in value so a lot of people were upside down in what they already owned. But things are on the upswing. Sales are better.”

About 1 in 12 U.S. vehicle-owning households, or about 8.2 million, also owns an RV, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA. The industry employs more than a quarter-million Americans.

RV lovers and the culture associated with owning the vehicles runs deep across the country. Retirees love the time outdoors, on the road in their vehicles. And people with small children enjoy the family time.

“You’re outdoors, instead of being at a theme park or something,” said John Dotson, who visited the show with his wife looking for an entry-level RV in the range of $10,000 to $15,000, “Instead of relying on something else to entertain you,”

He said he has never owned an RV but thinks now is the right time to buy one.

Another Michigan resident at the show, Larry Nethot, said he was looking for a replacement RV. He and his wife are former backpackers and they need a new RV because she no longer likes the outdoors. “Our parents stole our retirement home, so we’ve got to find another place to sleep,” he said.

Nethot checked out an RV that had an LCD television, DVD player, a kitchen dinette and other home furnishing in it. “I like the outdoors but my wife can no longer stand it at the camp, ” he said.

The RV is a compromise for the couple.

Jeff Rank, the president of Prime Time Manufacturing in Wakarusa, Ind., attended the Novi show and was delighted with interest from prospective customers like Dotson.

“The traffic is awesome,” he said. “Let’s face it, the last couple of years, it’s been a struggle. People seem to be in a better mood.”

Rank sells the impressive high-end LaCroose RV, which is 35 feet long and features a 26-inch LCD screen inside. That people are looking to buy some of the high-end RVs is a real sign the industry is back on track, he said. “You’re already seeing the comeback in wholesale shipments to dealers,” he said. “It’s about a 50-70% increase in shipments.”

Rank’s family has been in the RV business since 1969 and he says the past few years have been one of the worst periods he has seen in the industry. “It seems like every decade we have had a 10-, 12-year run that has been whatever the U.S. economy is doing, our industry is doing.”

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

MARVAC Reports Good Show, Elects New Officers

November 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

MARVAC RV Show logoThe Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) successfully wrapped up the 20th Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show in Novi, Mich., at the Rock Financial Showplace on Oct. 4 with a 40% increase in attendance, making the show the best attended fall show since 2003.

“Many dealers noted a significant amount of first time RV show visitors who showed interest in everything, including diesel pusher motorhomes,” MARVAC reported in its current newsletter. “Campground representatives with booths in the show reported a surprising number of visitors who actually made reservations for next season. The parts and accessories section also received an abundance of traffic, with special interest in new satellite and Internet reception products specifically.”

MARVAC Director Bill Sheffer was encouraged by the upbeat mood of visitors. “It’s been a difficult economic year, especially in Michigan, and to see the number of potential buyers and camping enthusiasts at this year’s show helps bring the whole industry’s attitude up a level.”

 The Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show featured over 200 new recreation vehicles on display including folding campers, motorhomes, travel trailers, truck campers and fifth wheel travel trailers. The show also featured booths showcasing parts and accessories, campground information, on site RV financing, RV rentals, an outdoor display of new RVs and a special “green” RV display sponsored by General RV and Winnebago.

Meanwhile, the association elected the following officers for the upcoming year:

  • President Jon Caswell, Caswell RV.
  • Vice President Gene Cronin Sr., Forest River Inc.
  • Treasurer Scott Dodge, General RV Center.
  • Secretary Dave Haylett, Haylett North Country Auto & RV.

The complete 2009-2010 MARVAC board of directors consists of: Caswell;  Cronin; Doyle Dennings, Covenant Hills Camp; Dodge; Haylett; Dave Rochette, Westland Camping Center; Bob Rohn, Lake of Dreams; Derek Watson, Nature & Me RV; and Jerry Weller, Assurant Solutions.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Michigan RV Show Attendance Up 40%; Highest Since 2003

October 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

MARVAC RV Show logoThe Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) successfully wrapped up the 20th Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show in Novi, Mich., at the Rock Financial Showplace last weekend with a 40% increase in attendance, making the show, which an from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, the best attended Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show since 2003.

Many dealers noted a significant number of first time RV show visitors who showed interest in everything, including diesel pusher motorhomes, according to a MARVAC news release. Campground representatives with booths in the show reported a surprising number of visitors who actually made reservations for next season. The parts and accessories section also received an abundance of traffic, with special interest in new satellite and Internet reception products specifically.

MARVAC Director Bill Sheffer was encouraged by the upbeat mood of visitors. “It’s been a difficult economic year, especially in Michigan, and to see the number of potential buyers and camping enthusiasts at this year’s show helps bring the whole industry’s attitude up a level.”

The Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show featured over 200 new recreation vehicles on display including folding campers, motorhomes, travel trailers, truck campers and fifth wheel travel trailers. The show also featured booths showcasing parts and accessories, campground information, on site RV financing, RV rentals, an outdoor display of new RVs and a special “green” RV display sponsored by General RV and Winnebago.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

« Previous Page

Bottom