RV wholesale shipments were reported at 13,500 units in July this year, off 14.0% from last month and off 21.1% from this same month one year ago, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported.
Shipments had been improving steadily since the beginning of the year, and on a seasonally adjusted basis July’s total represented an annual rate of 171,000 units, the highest level since October last year.
July’s total was the smallest percentage decline in month-over-month comparisons since April 2008. Towable RVs were off 18.7%, while motorhomes were behind this month last year by 43.8%. Year-to-date, totals of 86,200 units were behind the first seven months last year by 52% through July.
By product segment, shipments were as follows:
- Travel trailers, 8,500.
- Fifth-wheels, 2,700.
- Folding camping trailers, 1,300.
- Truck campers, 100.
- Total towables, 12,600.
- Class A motorhomes, 400.
- Class B motorhomes, 100.
- Class C motorhomes, 400.
- Total motorized, 900.
Two months of steady growth in the retail sales of motorized RVs came to an end in May with a decline in both Class A and Class C retail registrations, according to the latest report from Statistical Surveys Inc.
The Grand Rapids, Mich., firm reported total registrations of 1,709 units, compared with 3,508 in May 2008, for a 51.3% decline.
The May registration total of 1,709 fell short of the 2,221 sold in April.
The breakdown by class for May was as follows:
- Class A, 928 sold compared with 1,887 in May 2008.
- Class C, 781 sold compared with 1,621 in May 2008.
Winnebago Industries Inc. regained the No. 1 position for motorhome sales with 370 units retailed in May, compared with runner-up Thor Industries Inc.’s 318. The two were locked in a dead heat in April.
Winnebago’s market share for May was 21.7% and 19.1% year-to-date, while Thor’s was 18.6% for May and 18.4% year-to-date.
By class, Winnebago was No. 1 in Class A sales with 184 units sold (19.8% market share) in May, while Thor and Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. were tied for second each with 153 units sold (16.5% market share). And Winnebago held the top spot in Class C sales with 186 (23.8% market share). Thor was second with 165 sales (21.1% market share).
The reporting firm revealed that the state of Alaska experienced a two-year decline of 91.8%
“Alaska is a big rental fleet state. We believe that the 2008 (total) contains rental fleet registrations. The May 2009 data reflects the retail accurately without any rentals,” Statistical Surveys noted.
John Bleakley Motorhomes Inc. has opened its third full-service towable and motorized RV dealership in Jackson, Ga.
Bleakley’s ”Atlanta South” store 35 miles south of Atlanta on I-75 formerly housed Sagon RV SuperCenter, a 30-year-old Georgia dealer that went out of business.
The new Bleakley facility features 80,000-square-feet under roof with 33 service bays on 28 acres. ”We are positioning ourselves strategically in the Atlanta area,” said Bill Gillard, general manager of the 40-year-old dealership chain. We know that the RV business is not going to be down forever. Now is the time to position ourselves for when it does come back.
”With some trepidation,” he added, ”I think it’s coming back now. There is pent-up demand and we’ve enjoyed an increase in business over the last few months.”
The new store opened in mid-June and augments two other Bleakley facilities, one in the Atlanta suburb of Douglasville and the other in Unadilla, south of Macon. Bleakley’s also has motorhomes and towable RVs on fulltime display at Stone Mountain Heights RV and Mobile Home Park in Stone Mountain, Ga.
”We believe that the Sagon facility will ultimately be the flagship store in a few years,” Gillard said.
Bleakley, Georgia’s No. 1 motorhome dealer three years running, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., employs 75 and returned several laid off employees when it opened the Jackson facility.
”It’s a tough time right now, but now is the time when you try to make some pretty aggressive moves,” Gillard said. ”you need to raise the bar or you won’t catch up with the people who already have.”
Tiara RV in Elkhart, Ind., kicked off its spring selling season with a successful open house this past weekend.
“We were more than satisfied,” Brian Calhoun, sales manager, told RVBusiness.
The open house drew shoppers from as far away as 200 miles and generated some sales that would not have been made without the event, he said.
“People still perceive, ‘buy close to the manufacturer and save money,’” he said.
Internet sales are a vital part of Tiara’s business, generating approximately 75% of it sales, he added.
The dealership featured 2010 model towables and motorized products by Keystone RV Co., Four Winds International Corp., Forest River Inc., Carriage Inc. and KZRV LP.
He identified Keystone’s Montana and Carriage’s Cameo as the units garnering the most interest, but he also saw interest in motorized RVs and used product such as Keystone’s Springdale.
He said “fulltimer RVers and snowbirds” remain the dealership’s biggest customer base.
Tiara, which was founded in 2002, reported a record sales performance in the first quarter and expects to turn a profit this year.
“There is a buyer out there. There is a market, you just have to tap it,” he said. ”As long as the retail consumer is credit worthy, we have had no problem.”
Typical buyers have credit scores of 700 or better, “but bankers look at more factors than just the score. Some lenders still buy the people, he said, “if you have a good record of making payments and your debt to income ratio is not out of whack.”
Calhoun identified Tiara as “a pretty good discounter. But our profit margins have been good. We’re aggressive, especially in this kind of market because everyody is aggressive but there are buyers out there.”