Overall foot traffic may have been down from a year ago, but attendees at the Aug. 19-21 Midwest RV Super Show in downtown Elkhart were in a buying mood, according to event organizers.
“When the dealers left they, were happy,” Mark Bowersox, show director and executive director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC) that sponsored the 56-year-old consumer event, told RVBUSINESS.com. “Even though attendance was down – approximately 2,500 people compared to 4,000 last year – it sounded like sales were up for nearly every dealer.
“There was even a four- to five-hour stretch on Saturday where we had a steady rain. But people were still coming in, and they were looking for something to buy.”
It marked the second straight year that the show was held on Elkhart’s Civic Plaza. Bowersox said that 10 area dealers participated with around 150 units on display.
According to a report in the South Bend Tribune, the event got off to a strong start on Friday. The show was not even two hours old and Swardson’s Indiana RV Connection had already sold a unit.
Over at Great Lakes RV Center’s area, where its president Rob Reid had 39 units on hand, one unit also sold before noon, plus another two at one of his Elkhart showrooms. “The early part of the day, those people are maybe retired or took the day off to maybe come out and buy,” Reid said. “We like having these people right at the gate early on.”
The show is vital to his dealership, he said, noting the 20 units they sold there a year ago. “I have been in the show the last 10 years,” Reid said. “And that was the second best show we ever had. We sold 40 units in 2006.”
Bowersox noted that the event’s nomadic pattern in the past five years may have contributed to the drop in attendance. The show had a long run in South Bend on the campus of the University of Notre Dame before moving to the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen from 2006-2008. In 2009, RVIC canceled the show.
“There’s no doubt the fact that we have moved around and changed the dates has had an effect,” Bowersox said.
He said that organizers are hoping to return to Elkhart next year. The city provided funding in 2010, “just so we could get back on our feet after a year off,” but the show did not receive any financing this year.
“The fact that we were able to do the show without any help is a good sign,” said Bowersox.
The Midwest RV Super Show is setting up for the second year on the Elkhart, Ind., Civic Plaza, opening on Friday (Aug. 18) morning and running through Sunday. According to a report by the Goshen News, the show dates back 56 years.
Late Wednesday afternoon Jay Sleeper, owner of The RV Center in Columbia City, was busy on the civic plaza directing his staff setting up Canterbury park models and towables by Shipshewana-based KZ RV Inc.
“Last year it was a great experience and that is why we are back,” Sleeper said. “We had real good reviews about our products.”
The RV Center is one of eight dealers that will exhibit products at the show. The others are Great Lakes RV Center, Elkhart RV Sales, Indiana RV Connection, International RV World, The Outpost RV, Total Value RV and Wana RV Center.
Sleeper said he exhibits at the show, “because we want to show the public what the lifestyle is all about and hopefully to offer a big enough incentive to entice them to even buy something.”
Sleeper will be using technology to promote sales. He said while his staff will display six units on-site, through his smartphone and laptop computer he can quickly show customers the 200 other units he has on his show lot in Columbia City.
He was optimistic about the sales aspect of the show. “This year we have definitely been rebounding. This year has been extremely busy for us,” he said.
Tom Ewing of Elkhart RV Sales, Middlebury, sees the show as a chance to show his products to people from across the Midwest.
“People travel here to get a deal on an RV and they travel from quite a ways away. We get people from Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.”
Ewing said RV buyers can save some money on transportation costs by attending the show and buying there. “So people from those states are willing to travel here for those savings,” he said.
Ewing will have his Palomino truck campers on display as well as travel trailers, fifth-wheels and toy haulers.
Last year about 4,000 people attended the Midwest RV Super Show in downtown Elkhart, according to a report in the South Bend Tribune.
This year, with RV sales up over a year ago but an economy that seems to be bouncing around, Mark Bowersox, the show director, says he’s not sure what to expect.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “The economy is up and down a little bit but RV sales have been recovering. This year has been a little bit better for a lot of people. We are just hoping for good weather and we will wait and see.”
The 56th Midwest RV Super Show runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday on Civic Plaza and Central Park in downtown Elkhart. The show’s hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Kids ages 15 and younger get in free and all others pay $6.
What attendees will see is about 150 new 2011 and 2012 RVs from about 40 manufacturers.
“We do the show for a couple of reasons,” said Bowersox, who also is the executive director for the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council. “No. 1 is to give the local dealers a chance to sell their product.
“It’s also an opportunity to give people who would not necessarily stop at an RV dealer’s lot to come to a show and a no-pressure environment, walk around in a beautiful atmosphere and see exactly what’s in an RV. And see how affordable they actually are and maybe some day they would be a buyer sometime down the road.”
This will mark the second straight year staging the show in downtown Elkhart. The year before that there was no show and before that it was held at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen.
There is a potential snag in the planning of the Midwest RV Super Show in Elkhart, Ind., according to a report by WNDU TV, South Bend. The event is set to run Aug. 19-21 at Civic Plaza in downtown Elkhart.
In 2009, the RV show was canceled after a 55-year run in Elkhart. Last year it returned to the Northern Indiana city, but with much lower turnout than organizers had hoped.
Organizers reported that this year, the show will be missing $40,000 dollars in seed money provided by the city in 2010.
There will still be $40,000 provided by the Recreational Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC), and organizers say that half the funding will not hurt the production. They are expecting roughly the same attendance as last year.
Watch today’s Featured video, courtesy of WSJV-TV, Elkhart-South Bend.
The 55th Midwest RV Super Show in the Civic Plaza in downtown Elkhart, Ind., wrapped up Sunday (Aug. 15) after three days of strong sales and great attendance.
The show was sponsored by the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association-Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (IMHA-RVIA). Ten RV dealers from northern Indiana took part.
“The fact that we’ve had serious potential buyers out here this week, that’s a real good sign for the industry as well as the national economy,” Mark Bowersox, IMHA-RVIC executive director, told WSJV-TV, Fox 28 News, Elkhart-South Bend.
Sizzling temperatures this past weekend couldn’t keep buyers away from checking out the latest in new RVs. The heat was also on for vendors like who took note of both the steady attendance and shoppers ready to spend money on the newest products.
“There were definitely more [people] than I expected and a lot more serious lookers than I expected,” says Joanna Miller, an RV dealer at the event.
By the end of the three-day show, sold signs could be seen on many of the vehicles, leading customers like Mike Wheeler to believe that the economy is heading in the right direction.
“I saw a lot of sold signs on a lot of these campers so maybe that’s a good sign, and we’re hoping that it picks up,” says Wheeler.
Organizers say the event drew approximately 4,000 visitors, less than expected, but given the questions that people had for dealers, it was a crowd that was serious about buying RVs.
“You can tell about somebody, if the first question out of their mouth is ‘what the price is’ versus ‘how much does it weigh’ or ‘what are the side walls made of’. These kind of questions it helps you kind of filter out the serious from the not serious,” says Bowersox.
Watch today’s Featured Video from WSJV-TV, Elkhart, Ind.
Elkhart will host the Midwest RV Super Show this weekend.
The event returns after organizers canceled last year’s show due to the recession, but this year, a lot is expected.
Those rock bottom lows have seemingly passed.
“Shipment numbers were the lowest in decades in the last few years. This year, shipment numbers are some of the highest they’ve ever been,” said show director Mark Bowersox.
Bowersox says dealers will display more than 140 RVs at this year’s show.
Dealer Rob Reid will be there to take advantage of what he says is a buying public.
“This year our web traffic is up 60%. Our foot traffic is up probably 30% to 40%. With all that said, the buyers are there. It’s not just people out there kicking the tires and shopping, they are actually buying units now,” said Reid.
In the RV Capital of the World, it’s understood that RVing isn’t just a luxury, for many it’s a necessity.
“RVing is something that everybody wants to do. It’s not an option, it’s a lifestyle,” Decock said.
Reid says that, “They’re not just going to sit by and not go camping, or not enjoy good family time.”
It’s a passionate consumer base that has the RV industry back on the map, and headed in what Bowersox believes is the right direction.
“I’m not an economist and I’m not sure that I believe the ones that I do hear. Everybody seems to have a different theory, but what we see in the RV industry is hopefully some long-term, sustained growth,” Bowersox said.
It’s well-documented that where the RV industry goes, the national economy soon follows.
Economists say that once the industry starts to prosper, it usually takes about six months for the entire economy to follow suit.
Watch today’s Featured Video courtesy of WSBT-TV, South Bend, Ind., about the following story.
It used to be a huge event for the RV industry at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind., every summer, but last year it was canceled due to the economy. Now it looks like the Midwest RV Super Show is making a comeback, of sorts, this year.
Organizers are hoping to hold a smaller show in August at the downtown Civic Plaza. The city of Elkhart is working with a statewide RV organization to make it happen.
Some RV dealers in the Elkhart area say they are noticing a turnaround in business, and that sales are beginning to pick up compared to a year ago. There are not as many RV dealers right now as there were two years ago, but the existing dealers want to get the word out about their product line.
That’s what the city and the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC) want to do, so they’re teaming up for an RV show to accomplish that.
“It’s not news to anybody that the RV industry has been in a bit of a downturn recently, but things are coming back, especially at the manufacturing level,” said RVIC Director Mark Bowersox. “We want to get the message out there that Elkhart is still the RV capital, and so there will be dealers from the city of Elkhart as well as the surrounding county, and really a lot of product that is made here locally.”
“I can feel the good times coming back,” said Hank Schrock, an Elkhart RV dealer. “It’s starting to come back this spring, and we are looking forward to doing some more shows.”
Plans call for the show to be held for three days, Aug. 13-15. The city says it has the potential to attract 8,000 people to the downtown area.
The decision on whether the 55th annual Midwest RV Super Show and Rally will take place remains up in the air.
Reports of its cancellation were incorrect, said Mark Bowersox, director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council, according to The South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.
“It was postponed,” he said. The show is currently slated for Sept. 17-20 at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, Bowersox said. The RVIC board of governors will decide if the show will go on.
“Right now what we are doing is playing for time,” Bowersox said. “There are certain industry and economic indicators we are looking at that need to improve between now and then for that show to happen.” But some of those factors are already improving, Bowersox said.
“The industry is rebounding in the lightweight and towable markets,” he said. “The stock market, the growth of the last week or 10 days not withstanding, is starting to come back from where it was last year. And consumer confidence, we believe, is starting to rebound as well.”
Bowersox said a decision will have to be made by mid-August and might be made sooner.
“We want to have the show,” he said. “We think it’s good for that area and the industry, but we need to see growth in those areas.” Two years ago about 7,500 people showed up to look at products from 22 RV retailers that represented 80 different product lines.
Last year retailers and crowd numbers “were off,” Bowersox said.
“And that’s a case of economic factors around the country and their impact on the RV industry,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with the product, per se,” he added.
“We believe it’s a good, reliable product, and at a good price point. The unfortunate part is that it’s part of the overall American economy.
“It’s subject to consumer confidence issues not created by the RV industry.
“Financing issues, the stock market and consumer confidence are what it’s tied to. They are all outside of the RV industry, but have had a tremendous impact on the industry. The RV industry will continue to improve as those factors improve.”
The show always has been held in August in the past, and it draws regionally, Bowersox said, with some people coming from the Southeast and Eastern parts of the United States.
The show is the same show that had been held for decades on the campus at Notre Dame.
Diana Lawson, executive director of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said she thought the show drew about 3,000 people a year ago at the fairgrounds.
She is unsure how it would do in September, but thinks it could do OK.
“I think if there is enough lead time to let people know that the event is going to happen, there is an opportunity for it to do the same amount of business as it did last year,” she said. “It will depend on the amount of dealers they get to participate in the show so they have enough product for people to enjoy.”
For 54 years, dealers and manufacturers in Elkhart County, the RV Capital of the World, have gathered their motorhomes and towables in a central location and opened the gates to consumers from the serious buyer to the merely curious.
Whether the Midwest RV Super Show and Rally will happen for the 55th year, however, remains in doubt, according to The Elkhart Truth.
Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC) has canceled the August dates — the time the dealer show has been typically held — but is still considering holding the event in mid-September. Problems with wholesale lending, consumer credit and consumer confidence are dampening the market for recreational vehicle and have put the show in limbo, said Mark Bowersox, director of RVIC.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that the industry has hit bottom and we’re recovering,” he said. But the council will have to determine if the level of growth can sustain a show in the fall.
As an indication of the upheavals in the industry, Michiana RV, the former Coachmen factory store in Elkhart, and DiMartini RV, the former Monaco Coach Corp. sales lot in Wakarusa, have closed since the two dealerships participated in the 2008 Midwest show at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.
Dealerships that are struggling would probably not be helped by the event, said Gary Miller, owner of Wana RV Center in Shipshewana.
Although sales are made, RV shows usually provide dealers will long-term leads that eventually turn into sales, he said, noting customers have walked into his showroom and bought a unit two years after they attended the Midwest show. Consequently, a dealer worried about next week’s bills will not care about delayed returns.
Hank Schrock, owner of Total Value RV in Elkhart, said having the show is “absolutely important.” Along with bringing people to town who want to buy RVs, the show injects some competition among the local dealers which, Schrock said, is healthy.
Within the next couple of weeks, RVIC hopes to make a decision about having the show in September.
Skipping the event would not tarnish the RV Capital’s image, said Diana Lawson, executive director of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau, explaining that in today’s economy, consumers are very forgiving. In fact, having a show with few dealers and poor attendance could do more damage.
“If we can’t do at least as well as we did last year, probably the best thing to do is let it rest,” Lawson said. “Then try it when we can do a good job and do the industry proud.”
Recent local RV shows did not unveil new models as they once did but, Bowersox said, the annual event gave the customers the opportunity to see many of the latest RVs side by side from multiple manufacturers without having to drive from one dealership to another.
Since the Midwest show may not happen, Miller and Schrock are planning their own shows to lure customers and spark sales. Miller has targeted Aug. 14 and 15 while Schrock is waiting to see what the Midwest RV Super Show does before solidifying the dates for his Fall Foliage Festival.
“I don’t believe you can sit here and do nothing,” Miller said. “You have to keep moving forward and that’s what I’m doing.”