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RVIA National RV Show Attendance Up 4.5%

December 3, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

RVIA logo Overall attendance at the just concluded 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., was up 4.5% over last  year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported this morning.

Monaco RV display at 48th Annual National RV Trade Show

Monaco RV display at 48th Annual National RV Trade Show

Total attendance was 8,696, or 373 more than the 2009 show. Other show results:

  • RV dealers, 3,173,  up 10.8%.
  • Total buyers, 3,563,  up 12.9%.
  • Dealerships, 1,294,  up 10.3%.

The number of representatives from manufacturer and supplier exhibitors was down this year, even though the exhibitors booked more space for this year’s show. On average, the exhibitors brought 2.8 fewer people than last year, according to an RVIA estimate.

Though an improvement over recent years, this week’s attendance was well below pre-recession attendance of 13,716 in 2005, when the show covered a record 906,000 square feet in the then newly renovated Kentucky Exposition Center, and 2004, when attendance totaled 14,450, according to RVBUSINESS.com archives.

Final show numbers for this week, followed by their comparison to the 2009 show, follow:

  • Accessory store, 261, +46.6%.
  • Campground owners, 28, -31.7%.
  • Warehouse distributors, 101, +38.4%.
  • Advertising press, 17, +70%.
  • Editorial press, 53, +10.4%.
  • Finance/guest, 120, +18.8%.
  • Manufacturer exhbitors, 1,609, -11%.
  • Non-member manufacturers, 37, +12.1%.
  • Supplier exhibitors, 2,396, -1%.
  • Non-member suppliers, 489, +22.3%.
  • Non-exhibiting member manufacturers, 12, -25%.
  • Non-exhibiting member suppliers, 196 +16.7%.
  • Manufacturers’ agents, 39, +2.6%.
  • U.S./Canadian association guests, 97, +36.6%.
  • Non-U.S./Canadian association representatives and guests, 68 +25.9%.

.

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Elkhart County Firms Big Part of RVIA Show

December 3, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Elkhart County’s workmanship was on display this week at the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

In two sports arenas, hallways, meeting rooms and expansive convention space, 318 exhibitors who make anything and everything for RVs had their goods on display. Of those exhibitors, at least 83 were from Elkhart County, the Goshen (Ind.) News reported.

In a hallway at the Kentucky Exposition Center, Mike Blankinship held up a flexible light strip with a bright yellow glow. It got people’s attention.

Blankinship is national sales manager for Vista Manufacturing in Elkhart. The company makes and distributes light strips of all types. Mirrored glass panels lit with imbedded LED lights, as well as a curvey mirror with white lights sparkling like the stars in the Big Dipper, drew plenty of attention from passersby. One woman stopped, moved her finger around the mirror and told her husband, “Oh, I really like that.”

Getting noticed

At the RV show, which ended Thursday, suppliers attempted to get their products noticed by manufacturers and manufacturers attempted to get their products noticed by dealers. Dealers walked and talked a lot. They went from manufacturer to manufacturer looking for good deals and good products.

In this endless cycle of supply and demand, demand and supply, a dizzying array of products made in Elkhart County were on display. There were massive Class A motorhomes more than 40 feet long that cost close to $1 million. There were also the tiny LED lights that Blankinship was hawking.

The company’s offerings were a mix of products made in Elkhart and those that come from overseas, where Blankinship  said the cheap labor makes local production of some lights unprofitable. But Vista workers take those imported LED products and put their own stamp on them.

“We bring it in and take it and adapt it to what the customer requires,” Blankinship said.

That may mean filling an order for 50 custom strip lights, or creating a clear plastic molding to hold the lights inside an RV.

That kind of service keeps the company of about 30 employees going. And the RV show was obviously important to Vista workers.

“The more we sell,” Blankinship said, “the more work we have.”

Demand ‘gone crazy’

Nearby in Hall 1, a model Class A RV was attracting many sets of eyes. The Miller brothers, Ryan and Darren, were showing off their family business, Paul’s Welding Inc. of Nappanee. The model RV was a prop for the steel fabricated industrial lift systems and work stations the company designs for and installs in RV plants.

“Dad just started doing small stuff,” Ryan Miller explained, “and the demand for the RV industry in the past 15 years has gone crazy.”

Now, Paul Miller designs all sorts of lift equipment to make the manufacture of RVs easier and safer. There is even a machine that lifts and turns an RV chassis on its side to make production easier.

The company’s skilled workers include welders, fabricators and material handlers.

“When we leave (an RV plant), it will be completely set up for production,” Miller said. “Way over half our sales are RV sales.”

Any RVs?

And of course, there were RVs at the RV show.

Dealers strolled in and out of the Jayco Entegra Coach display. The Entegra is a Class A motorhome that exudes luxury. While the dealers were looking at color schemes and floorplans, Tadd Jenkins, national sales manager for Entegra, talked about quality products from Elkhart County.

“The customer is demanding that (quality),” he said. “If you are going to survive in the marketplace, you have to give them a product that gives them the enjoyment they are looking for on a consistent basis.”

Much of the Entegra work force comes from Middlebury’s Amish community, which Jenkins praised as being productive and able to put a motorhome together.

“The wiring on these things,” he said, “is exponentially more difficult than a towable.”

The show ended Thursday.

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Day 3: Breaking News from Louisville Show

December 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Thursday, Dec. 2

Thursday, Dec. 2

Following are highlights of some of the developments announced at or reported to RVBUSINESS.com during this week’s 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

2010 National Show Winds Down

The 48th Annual National RV Trade Show is winding down and closes this afternoon.

Thursday, normally the slowest day of the three-day show sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), becomes “Competition Day,” a day for some OEM executives a chance to check out other exhibits.

‘Three manufacturers — two CEOs and a chairman — I spoke with at various social events this week said they have had no time to get out of their own booths. They were looking to see their ‘colleagues’ products’ today,” Kevin Broom, RVIA spokesman, said.

The show closes at 3:30 p.m. and all exhibitors are due out by Friday afternoon.

Next year’s show dates are Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

Lights Out at Freedom Hall

A power outage temporarily dimmed the overhead lighting inside Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Exposition Center Wednesday morning. The outage lasted approximately 10 minutes.

“Power stayed on in the display booths which gave them a festive mood,” Kevin Broom, RVIA spokesman, reported.

Ashurst Active at First RVIA Show

One of the new faces at this week’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., belonged to James Ashurst, the new vice president of advertising and public relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

James Ashurst addressing Outlook Breakfast on Tuesday.

James Ashurst addressing Outlook Breakfast on Tuesday.

Ashurst, formerly vice president of communications for the Travel Channel/Scripps Networks Interactive, will lead the award-winning Go RVing advertising and RVIA public relations programs. He succeeds Gary LaBella who is retiring after 32 years with RVIA.

“I really enjoyed being here. it’s been a great experience to cut my teeth on the show, meeting everyone and seeing the show up close and personal,” Ashurst told RVBUSINESS.com.

Ashurst, 37, said he “tried to make every corner” of the show.

Ashurst, who spoke briefly at Tuesday’s Outlook Breakfast, attended “a handfull of meetings and spent a lot of time time on the floor, meeting dealers and manufacturers, trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible with the size and breadth of the industry.”

“One takeaway I have is, everybody told me what a big family the RV industry is. That has become apparent, what a great group of people across all the various categories. Everyone I met has been extremely positive, very welcoming. You just feel the optimism. For someone coming in from the outside, that really motivates me to do everything I can to continue the great work from Gary and his team.”

RVIA Hosts Chinese Visitors

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) hosted approximately 120 representatives of the U.S. RV industry and members of a Chinese trade mission Tuesday night at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Attendance for this introductory meeting between the two countries was evenly split between the U.S. and Chinese.

“We would like to make the China market U.S. RV friendly and we are taking steps to try to accomplish this,” Craig Kirby, RVIA vice president and general counsel told RVBUSINESS.com. “Our focus is on helping our members produce products and export to China or provide any assistance they may need to make joint ventures for the China market.”

The reception drew representatives from leading U.S. manufacturers, including EverGreen RV, Monaco RV LLC, Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp., Thor Industries Inc., Winnebago Industries Inc., Jayco Inc. and MVP RV.

Suppliers included Atwood Mobile Products Inc., Dometic Inc., Detroit Chassis, ASA Electronics, Carefree of Colorado and Generac.

National Media Highlights

The National RV Trade Show received coverage from high-profile national media interested in the industry’s recovery, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported. History has shown the RV industry to be a leading economic indicator — shipments decline in advance of a widespread economic downturn and recover first as well. Reporters from CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Associated Press attended on the first day.

CNBC broadcasted two segments from the show floor in Louisville citing the RV industry’s recovery as an indicator that the economy is improving.

“Our largest demographic is the Baby Boomer, age 50 and above,” RVIA President Richard Coon told the cable network. “But what’s interesting is that the younger generation, those 35 and under, is the fastest growing part of this industry.”

The Wall Street Journal reported the industry will continue to grow in 2011, albeit at a slower pace than the 43% growth the industry enjoyed in 2010.

“Shipments have been rebounding this year after a deep slump that began in 2007 as lenders that finance RVs tightened their standards,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “Shipments from manufacturers this year have surged largely because dealers were rebuilding their stocks from unusually low levels.”

Reports from New York Times and Associated Press are expected in the coming days.

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Day 2: National RV Trade Show Perspectives

December 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Day 2 show highlights

Day 2 show highlights

Positives comparisons between this week’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., and the 2009 show continue to eminate from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) staff.

Cumulative attendance for the first two days of the show totals 8,544, up 311 or 3.8% from the 2009 show, Kevin Broom, RVIA spokesman, reported today (Dec. 2).

In the “buyers” category, which includes dealers, accessory stores, campground owners and warehouse distributors, attendance reached 3,484, up 381 or 12.3% from a year ago.  A total of 1,272 dealerships attended during the first two days of the 2010 show, an increase of 8.4% from the three-day total in 2009.

Here’s a breakdown of the two-day, cumulative numbers, followed by the change from 2009 and percentage difference:

  • RV dealers, 3,115, (+298), +10.6%.
  • Accessory store, 244, (+70), +40.2%.
  • Campground owners, 28, (-11), -28.2%.
  • Warehouse distributors, 97, (+24), +32.9%.
  • Total Buyers, 3,484, (+381), +12.3%.
  • Advertising press, 15, (+5), +50%.
  • Editorial press, 53, (+5), +10.4%.
  • Finance/guest, 116, (+17), +17.2%.
  • Manufacturer/exhibitor, 1,604, (-204), -11.3%.
  • Non-member manufacturers, 35, (+2), 6.1%.
  • Supplier exhibitors, 2,372, (-37), -1.5%.
  • Non-member suppliers, 463, (73), +18.7%.
  • Non-exhibiting member manufacturers, 10, (-3), -23.1%.
  • Non-exhibiting member suppliers, 192, (+27), +16.2%.
  • Manufacturers’ agents, 36, (+3), +9.1%.
  • U.S./Canadian association guests, 96, (+25), +35.2%.
  • Non-U.S./Canadian association representatives/guests, 68, (+17), +33.3%
  • Total 8,544, (+311), +3.8%.
  • Dealerships, 1,272, (+99), +8.4%.

The RVIA also provided comments from show participants:

“We’ve had a good show introducing our new element model. Having Terry Bradshaw on hand generated a lot of buzz and a lot of traffic.” — Kevin Slater, vice president of sales, Evergreen RV

“It’s my first year and it’s quite a trade show. It’s great to see the new technology and the resurgence in the market.” — Joe Stefanec, owner, Dee’s RV

“It’s been a good show. Traffic has been steady and we’ve been busy. We brought new product to this show that we didn’t have for the fall open house.  This is giving dealers more incentive to come to our display area.” — Jim Mac, director of marketing, Keystone RV Co.

“This is the best new dealer show in my six years of coming to Louisville. There’s more confidence among dealers this year than last year.” — Kevin McMahon, sales representative, Sunnybrook RV

“My fellow dealers are in a buying mood. Much more so than last year.” — Jim McAlpin, president, Grand Am RV

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Positive Mood Bathes National RV Trade Show

December 2, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Supplier booths at the National RV Trade Show

Supplier booths at the National RV Trade Show

Positive is the word that best describes the mood at the 48th Annual acNational RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

More than 300 manufacturers, suppliers and support companies have gathered here for the annual exchange of commerce. Deals are made, sales goals are either met or lowered and new business relationships are formed. In a nutshell, this is where the RV industry’s heartbeat is, The Goshen (Ind.) News reported.

After a depressing, recession-wracked show in 2008 and a so-so show last year, dealers and manufacturers are all positive this year as sales and interest in RVs are rebounding.

“So far it is going very well. I have seen some interesting new products,” said Scott Vande Kieft, a dealer for Wholesale Trailer Sales in Lynden, Wash.

He said his customers “are very cautious,” but he sells the fun that RVs bring to a family

“Even in a down economy, it is still very dificult to take away their vacation time,” he said. “They still like to have their fun.”

Vande Kieft was studying the floorplans offered for a Keystone RV Co. trailer made in Goshen. A few feet away Bob Martin, president of the company, was greeting dealers.

“It has been going very well, very busy. The traffic has been strong,” Martin said. At the time most all the Keystone sales staff were paired up with potential buyers.

Martin said the increase in dealer interest, coupled with an increase in financiing available to dealers, is encouraging.

“All these signs are great indicators of better days to come,” Martin said.

RV sales are 43% higher nationwide, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which is hosting the show. That sales increase has eased the unemployment rate in Elkhart County, which jumped to about 17% percent during the recession. Martin said that in the past year Keystone RV has hired back about 1,000 workers.

“We are gearing up for a great year (2011),” Martin said.

Keystone is a big player in the towables market, and at the show the company has 50 units on display over 35,000 square feet of floorspace. The staff at the show numbers about 80.

Keystone’s Montana fifth-wheel, which is made in Goshen, has been the No. 1 selling fifth-wheel for 10 years running.

“Orders received have ben very strong for the Montana line,” Martin said. A few changes have been made in Keystones lineup, both in architecture and interiors. “Dealers always want to see some changes because that gives customers a reason to buy,” Martin said.

Keystone is investing $2 million in a new building at its Goshen complex to manufacture its Laredo line. That factory should be finished in February, Martin said.

Altogether, Keystone has 3,000 employees (2,700 in Goshen) and 16 production facilities.

Just down the aisle from Keystone’s massive display was Riverside RV’s display. The small company had four trailers on display and one pickup camper. Angled to get the corner view of passing dealers was the company’s new White River Retro trailer. And it was drawing in most every dealer who passed by.

The Retro is designed to look like a 1960s towable. The interior has a bed, a convertible dinnette, a stove, sink and portable toilet hidden in a cabinet.

“We are very happy with it. Very happy,” said Bob Taulbee, a Riverside salesman.

And the show is going well for the LaGrange, Ind., company.

“Because of the Retro, it has been busier than in the past. The Retro is drawing a lot of people over here,” he said.

The Retro was introduced at the show. It weighs 1,700 pounds and is 14.5 feet long and because of its lightness, can be pulled by smaller cars and sport utility vehicles.

“I got the feedback from the dealers as what they wanted and our people put it together,” Taulbee said. “The bulk of what we do comes from dealer feedback.”

Another LaGrange County company, KZ RV LLP, was also offering new products. Andy Baer, vice president of sales and marketing, was busy showing off the new, elaborate outside kitchen offered on the Stoneridge fifth-wheel. The stainless steel kitchen features an infrared grill, work area and sink, all covered with an awning in case it rains during tailgating.

KZ also was offering a new lightweight trailer, the Spree Escape. It weighs 2,200 pounds and is designed to be towed by smaller vehicles, according to Baer.

Baer said KZ has had a good year and he is expecting the trend to continue. “The outlook is very positive,” Baer said.

Part of maintaining good sales is staying in touch with consumer trends. And Baer, like other sales people at the show, knows consumers are doing more research on products before they spend money.

“You don’t have to buy the cheapest necessarily, but you want to do your homework and get value for your dollar,” he said.

Taking a break near the KZ booth to study his map of the massive exhibit area, Steven Minghenelli of Sewell, N.J., was looking for diesel RV manufacturers.

“It’s a great show, very informative and there is a lot of product being displayed here. And it seems like it is busy,” Minghenelli said. As for his dealership’s businesss, Minghenelli said sales are improving.

“We are a diesel dealer and there is a lot of diesel displayed here, which is great for us,” he said. “And the diesel market is coming back strong, which is great for us.”

The National RV Trade Show runs through today.

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Baird: Sees Steady Recovery in the RV Market

December 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Baird logoEditor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. staff attended this week’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. Following are excerpts from a client newsletter on their field trip.

Action

We recommend the RV sector and consider Thor a top pick near $30. After meeting with key industry leaders at the RVIA trade show, we anticipate a steady recovery in the RV market. We: 1) like the macro backdrop (wealth effect, tax policy, consumer confidence), 2) expect credit to loosen, and 3) see industry survivors (Thor Industries Inc. and Winnebago Industries Inc.) taking share. Our checks suggest Thor’s discounting is temporary, creating a timely entry point near $30.

Summary

Industry survivors are cautiously optimistic. We met with the leading dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and creditors at the 48th annual RVIA trade show in Louisville. Buyer attendance was up 9.7% and the mood was optimistic, but cautious. Survivors are taking share, but planning conservatively, anticipating modest retail growth in 2011.

Wealth, taxes and consumer confidence. Despite stiff economic headwinds, we are reluctantly optimistic. Why? Equity markets are up, congress is likely to extend Bush-era tax cuts and consumer confidence is improving – providing the discretionary resources and consumer mindset to increase spending.

Fresh and lean inventory. Sources confirmed what we’ve been seeing in our dealer surveys – inventory is fresh and lean. Less than 10% of dealer inventory is aged beyond 365 days (down from 45% 12-18 months ago) and inventory is turning 2.2x or better (up from under 1x turn). Several key sources told us creditors report near-peak inventory turns.

Access to credit is the differentiator. The most popular feature today isn’t the slide-out or full-body paint, it’s access to credit. Although we expect credit to flow more easily in 2011, credit has emerged as a durable barrier to entry, benefitting stronger competitors – especially Thor.

Bankers’ new word: “Yes.” We expect credit to flow better in 2011. Bank of America is taking steps to triple its business as Ally Bank reenters the market. At the margin, we expect loan approval rates to improve, amplifying industry growth.

The “discount” discount = opportunity in Thor. Investors “discounted” Thor shares after a disappointing quarter. Unexpected discounts to clear excess finished goods inventory squeezed margin – and frustrated some shareholders. But our conversations suggest the discounts are temporary, creating an opportunity in Thor near $30. While the S&P 500 is within 2% of its 52-week high, Thor trades 24% below its high, Winnebago trades 40%. By comparison, Callaway is 31% shy of its high, Harley is 12% shy and Polaris is within 2%.

To subscribe to this or other Baird publications, contact Craig R. Kennison, CFA, ckennison@rwbaird.com or call (414) 765-3870.

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Bradshaw, Hughes Captivate RVIA Audience

December 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw

NFL legend Terry Bradshaw and musical prodigy Patrick Henry Hughes thrilled the audience with inspiring appearances at Outlook 2011: “A New Era Begins,” held Tuesday (Nov. 30) at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.

The event kicked off the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show, sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

Appearing courtesy of the major sponsorship of EverGreen Recreational Vehicles, Bradshaw tapped his trademark enthusiasm to share remarks on his personal game plan for success and his thoughts on the RV industry, according to a news release.

Bradshaw, whose affiliation with Evergreen’s line of eco-friendly trailers was announced earlier this year, said he has been impressed with the RV industry. “The industry has a great reputation and the outlook for the future is good.”

Bradshaw told the audience that he is an avid RV owner of a fifth-wheel travel trailer. “I take my RV all across the country, showing horses with my daughter,” he said. “Traveling by RV is a great way to go for families.”

He also advised attendees to simply have fun to be successful. “It you love what you do and are committed to what you do, you will have that passion that is needed to flourish.”

A native of Louisville, Hughes was joined by his father, Patrick John Hughes, in a powerful performance that touched on his heartwarming story of overcoming tremendous obstacles and included two songs — “What a Wonderful World” and “America the Beautiful.”

Patrick Henry Hughes

Patrick Henry Hughes

Patrick Henry Hughes was born unable to walk and without eyesight, but he has overcome these physical issues to excel as a musician and student. He has been featured on Oprah, Ellen, NBC’s Today, and ABC’s Extreme Make Over Home Edition

A musical genius, he began playing the piano at 9 months old and is now a virtuoso pianist, vocalist and trumpet player. He even participates in the University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band with help from his father, who tirelessly maneuvers his wheel chair through the formations.

“I mean, God made me blind and didn’t give me the ability to walk…big deal,” said Patrick. “He gave me the talent to play piano and trumpet and all that good stuff. There are days when I’d rather stay at home, but life is about overcoming obstacles no matter how big they may seem.”

“I always thought I’d have a son who would be a hero on the football field,” dad Patrick John added. “Little did I know that he would be in a wheel chair as a member of the band, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so proud of Patrick Henry and all that he’s accomplished.

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Day 2: Breaking News from Louisville Show

December 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Wednesday, Dec. 1

Wednesday, Dec. 1

Following are highlights of some of the developments announced at or reported to RVBUSINESS.com during this week’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

Prime Time Mfg. Gets the Word Out

In only its second year of existence, Prime Time Manufacturing won a DSI Award from the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).

That award, presented Monday night, “gave us a lot of credibility,” said Jeff Rank, president of the Forest River Inc. division.

Prime Time is showing its ultralight Tracer and LaCrosse travel trailers and Crusader fifth-wheel. “The Crusader has done well” at the show, Rank said mid-afternoon today (Dec. 1)

“To be fair, what we’re seeing as a new company may not be completely indicative of the show but we’re having a great show. A lot of people are paying attention to us. Dealers are coming to us,” he said.

That said, Rank added, “In general, I get the sense traffic may be down a little bit. Some dealers are buying product but some dealers are being a little bit conservative.”

He thinks that will change soon.

“I think over the next 30 to 45 days they will be aggressively ordering product,” he predicted.

Monaco Unveils Holiday Rambler Trip

Monaco RV unveiled its 2011 Holiday Rambler Trip Class A motorhome Tuesday at the National RV Trade Show and has drawn considerable dealer attention, according to Mike Snell, vice president of sales and product development.

“They’re excited and they’re buying,” he stated. He conceded the dealer attendance and response at the show is “a bit better than I expected.”

The display centers on the theme “All Roads Lead to Monaco.”

The Trip, Moanco’s Vesta –first shown to Monaco dealers in August — and a display of three MaxxForce engines are the focus of the Monaco display in Louisville.

Winnebago Tour and Vista Getting Oohs and Ahs

Winnebago Industries Inc. is featuring its Tour and Vista motorhomes at this year’s show and they’re drawing plenty of “Oohs and Ahs” from dealers, reports Bob Olson, president and CEO.

Both products received some facelifts for 2011, new floorplans and interior changes, he noted. The company also is reintroducing the Era Class B van at the show.

Winnebago also is showing new floorplans up and down its lineup, a reflection of R&D this past year.

In tough times, Olson said, it”s “easy to cut R&D expense, we didn’t do that. We spent the R&D dollars and I think it will pay dividends.”

“I’m pleased with the display; I couldn’t be happier about the product,” he said. “The activity we have speaks volumes to that. There has been a steady stream of people. Better to be busy than sitting here twiddling your thumbs.”

As for the show overall, Olson said he was impressed with the traffic on opening day.

“The bigger issue is, there is an air of optimism at the show this year. Last year, nobody really knew what the future held in store for us. You can’t put your finger on it, but it’s there.”

Olson and other key Winnebago management met with investors, including Craig Kennison of Robert W. Baird & Co., Tuesday night and again today to discuss the company’s prospects. Kennison is a frequent contributor to RVBUSINESS.com and RVBusiness magazine.

Winnebago is one of two major publicly held RV OEMs and as such draws intense scrutiny from Wall Street. Winnebago is just coming off conclusion of its first quarter and will be reporting results in mid-December.

In a related matter, Olson said Winnebago remains in the due diligence period concerning its announced intention to buy SunnyBrook RV, a towable manufacturer based in Indiana. Olson said he hopes to have something to report in 30 days.

Starcraft RV’s AR-ONE Gains Traction

The AR-ONE, a lightweight folding camping trailer from Starcraft RV, is “a huge hit” among RV dealers from the U.S. and as far away as South Korea, reports Jim Jacobs, general manager.

With a dry weight of between 2,250 and 2,500 pounds and a MSRP of around $8,500, “that product is perfect for their (Korean) market.”

Jacobs also reports high dealer interest in Starcraft’s Autumn Ridge and Travel Star lines.

Overall, “We’ve had great traffic. That’s pretty encouraging. People are buying too,” he said.

Chinese Show Interest in CrossRoads Lightweights

Dave Boggs, director of marketing at CrossRoads RV, reports Chinese RV dealers are showing interest in CrossRoads’ lightweight products, the Sunset Trailer and the Slingshot.

The Sunset Trail Reserve package includes what CrossRoads is calling an industry first: a living room fireplace that can turn around and face the bedroom. “The dealers were floored by it,” he said.

Overall, he said CrossRoads’ dealers are responding favorably “to the changes we’ve made in the last 12 weeks.”

The company’s Rushmore, a full profile fifth-wheel trailer is in the front of the company’s display and is getting the most walk-through traffic. “A major dealer in the U.S. told us it’s the nicest product at the show for the price,” he said.

CrossRoads Zinger, its biggest volume producer, “has dealers raving how nice it is for a ‘stick and tin’ product,” he said. It features a raised roof, 6-foot slideout and interiors like a higher-end fifth-wheel, he noted.

KZ Touts Spree Escape, Stone Ridge Fiver

KZ RV’s Andy Baer, vice president of sales and marketing, reported that the company’s lightweight Spree Escape travel trailer and Stone Ridge fifth-wheel are attracting the most dealer attention among the company’s products at this year’s show.

He praised the Outlook Breakfast as “the best I’ve ever been to” and reported that attendees left there and came to the show expressing “a very positive outlook. People feel like we’re definitely past the worst of it (recession).

“I don’t think we’ll have great growth,” he said, referring to the industry as a whole, “but I think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a good vibe we’re getting.”

Baer also reported that KZ is seeing “more new (dealer) faces this year than ever before. We’re as happy as clams!”

Gulf Stream’s Sky Product Hits Mark

Matt Buckman, national sales manager Gulf Stream Coach Inc.’s Kingsport Division, was beaming over opening day traffic and dealer response at the show.

“The traffic is outstanding, the dealer attitudes seme to be very vibrant, the activity has been great. Traffic through this booth is the best we’ve seen in years,” he said.

“Dealers are buying a myrid of everything, motorized and towables. We have great visibility on our toy hauler; the new fifth-wheel group we put together, Ridgeline, is seeing great traffic.”

He said Gulf Stream is getting “a great response” to its new Sky travel trailer. “We’re tyring to promote a wide body design on a stick and tin and a value laminated sidewall piece. The radious roofline front to back gives the unit a great look. It has a curvaceous feel.”

The Sky is 3 1/2 inches wider than standard units, providing an additional 52 cubic feet of useable space in the largest floorplan.

Carriage’s Cushman Issues Glowing Report

Glenn Cushman, CEO of Carriage Inc., shared impressive numbers with RVBUSINESS.com on his company’s opening day results at the Naitonal RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

“We set a goal and we beat the goal the first day. We normally don’t start writing serious orders until Wednesday,” he said.

Carriage’s hot products are its new Cabo entry-level fifth-wheel and its upper end Royals fifth-wheel.

“We’ve sold two-thirds of the number of Royals we would sell for the year just yesterday,” he said.

“We have been busy since the moment we opened. We had to kick people out of here at 5:30 p.m. This is fun. We’re having a blast.”

Carriage also signed up 10 new dealers in a vast area stretching from Georgia to Western Canada, he said.

Carriage is finding first-time customers who are gravitating to its bunk house Cabo floorplan, he said. Carriage customers historically have been third- and fourth-time purchasers in an older demographic, but the Cabo floorplan and a price-point in the mid-50s makes it attractive, he said.

Snow Greets Show Visitors

Light snow flurries enveloped Louisville, Ky., this morning as Day 2 of the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show got underway. It wasn’t “sticking” as of 10 a.m.

Opening Day Comments at the Show

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) provided the following comments from Tuesday (Nov. 30), opening day of the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.:

“Traffic has been strong and steady. Dealers are upbeat and enthusiastic about the direction of Jayco and business in general. I haven’t heard one complaint.” Sid Johnson, director of marketing, Jayco Inc.

“Overall, the excitement level is very positive. We’re doing very well and we’re expecting an even bigger day tomorrow. There are more dealer principals here than non-principals.” Brian Donat, general manager, Coachmen Apex Division

“We’re getting quality traffic and quality leads. Traffic has been very god.” Scott Degnan, vice president of sales, MVP RV

“So far traffic has been very good. There are definitely more dealers here this year than last year and their attitude is more upbeat.” Keith Donkin, general manager, Northern Lite

“The general mood of the show, with the increase in show space, is terrific and encouraging. It points to the fact that we’re on the road to recovery.” Bob Olson, president and CEO, Winnebago Industries Inc.

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‘Buyers’ Attendance Up 11% at National Show

December 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Attendance at the opening day of the 48th Annual National RV trade Show was virtually flat compared to last year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported today.

Tuesday’s attendance totaled 7,554, up 0.6% from 7,508 on opening day in 2009, Kevin Broom, RVIA spokesman, reported.

In general, the “buyer” attendance is up and exhibitor attendance — representing the numbers of people staffing the exhibits — is down, Broom noted.

In what the RVIA calls “Buyer Categories,” attendance totaled 2,983, compared to 2,687 in 2009, or an 11% increase. The breakdown (with 2009 figures in parenthesis) was as follows:

  • Dealers, 2,713 (2,473), up 9.7%
  • Dealerships,  1,122 (no opening day 2009 figure available).
  • Accessory stores 185 (127), up 45.7%
  • Campground owners, 18 (32), down 43.8%
  • Warehouse distributors, 67 (55), up 21.8%

Opening day attracted 1,511 from manufacturers, down 12.9% from opening day 2009’s 1,734. Seventy manufacturers are displaying product this year, the same as last year.

There were 2,227 people representing suppliers at the first day, down 4.4% from opening day 2009’s 2,329. This year’s number of supplying firms is 251, up from 211 last year.

Other attendance figures were as follows:

  • Advertising prees, 13 (10).
  • Editorial press, 50 (45).
  • Finance/guessts, 84 (80).
  • Non-member manufacturers, 26 (29).
  • Non-member suppliers, 313 (297).
  • Non-exhibiting member manufacturers, 8 (7).
  • Non-exhibiting member suppliers, 157 (143).
  • Manufacturers agents, 24 (31).
  • US/Canadian association guests, 91 (63)
  • Non-U.S./Canadian association representatives/guests, 67 (53)
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RV Market Changes Noted at Outlook 2011

December 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Today in Louisville

Tuesday in Louisville

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) public relations team detailed its award-winning work to polish the image of RVing in the media this year, and described how the industry should market to post-recession consumers at Outlook 2011: “A New Era Begins,” today’s (Nov. 30) kickoff event to the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

In a presentation titled “A New Era of Possibilities,” Public Relations Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson and RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella discussed how RVIA’s public relations program built core demand for RVs and the RV lifestyle using the industry’s Centennial and key RV messages. RVIA’s PR work has been recognized by public relations organizations with three major awards this year.

“Through our public relations outreach, we have protected and advanced the image of our industry and our products,” said Thompson. “RVs are mainstream and as popular as ever. They continue to embody cherished American values — family, the great outdoors and living the American dream.”

Thompson and LaBella told attendees that the economic downturn has led even affluent consumers to rethink their spending habits, pay down debts and look for ways to economize.

“People still want to travel” despite the change in consumer behavior, LaBella said. “And they are traveling — on their own terms. For people looking to travel more but spend less, RVs are the perfect choice.”

LaBella and Thompson emphasized that the Internet is where most consumers begin their search for travel options. This means RV companies need to provide information about their products and services across a variety of web services.

“With consumers dramatically increasing the research they do before making purchases large and small, the brand with the better information will win,” said LaBella.

While consumers are looking to save, people still want to invest in memorable, fun experiences, said the duo. Experts say even more affluent customers are now interested in “functional luxury” — items that last while providing customers a better experience with daily living.

“RV ownership is a lasting investment that elevates leisure travel and provides an endless source of new experiences,” said Thompson. “Even mundane tasks like driving and cooking become part of the fun on an RV trip.” For many consumers, luxury means owning top mobile-tech products — a trend RV makers can capitalize on by finding ways to integrate these technologies into RVs.

Consumers increasingly feel overwhelmed and out of control, Thompson and LaBella reported. For individuals seeking the luxury of escape, RVs provide an antidote, offering people more time and control to enjoy their leisure travel and reduce stress.

“When you drill down to the core, economic losses have caused many to turn back to basics like reconnecting with family, spending time outdoors and getting healthier,” said LaBella.

“RVs are the perfect “back to basics” vehicle to meet these needs,” Thompson said.

The presentation concluded with a brief tribute to LaBella, who is retiring at year’s end and the introduction of his successor, James Ashurst, incoming RVIA vice president of public relations and advertising.

Gary LaBella receives a warm sendoff from RVIA staff and members.

Gary LaBella receives a warm sendoff from RVIA staff and members during Tuesday's Outlook Breakfast.

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