Attendance during the opening day of the 42nd Annual Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping show in Hershey, Pa., set a record with 6,216 people entering the gates during ”Seniors Day.”
”We had a good day yesterday,” said Heather Leach, director of marketing and education for the sponsoring Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Association (PRVCA). ”Everyone who has come into the show office said they’ve had sales, and we very pleased, overall.
”Plus, the weather was beautiful, which sometimes is not the case.”
Leach’s comments were consistent with those of other industry people working the Hershey Show — the East Coast’s largest annual retail RV event.
”Traffic was awesome, almost overwhelming in fact,” said Bill Fenech, president of Thor Motor Coach, the product of a recent merger of Thor Industry Inc. subsidiaries Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International Corp.
”We’re definitely excited. Everything is selling — Class C’s, and Class A gas and diesels. We are getting real numbers. There is still pent-up demand out there.”
Jerry Sell, national sales manager for Gulf Stream Coach Inc.’s EnduraMax towable SURV, said opening day ”went very well.”
”We got one sale for sure, but seniors aren’t really our demographic,” Sell said. ”Manufacturers I talked to were very pleased with the attendance and were happy with their sales. Based on the first day and how well sales are going, we are expecting the rest of the week to be strong.”
Traffic was strong and “people were generally in a buying mood,” Prime Time Manufacturing President Jeff Rank said of Wednesday’s record burst of Hersheypark traffic. “I guess, given where the industry’s been in recent years, we felt pretty good about it.”
Rank said the most prevelant show attendees Wednesday were older RVer s— no surprise, given the fact that it was senior citizen discount day — many of them looking to downsize.
Show Chairman Dan Saltzgiver, owner of Reichart’s Camping Center in Hanover, Pa, said that traffic in his display at the show, which is showcasing Forest River Inc.’s Rockwood towable brand and Earthbound Recreational Vehicles LLC travel trailers and fifth-wheels, was ”very brisk.”
”They had leads coming in, and, all in all, it was a very good,” Saltzgiver said.
With more than 1 million square feet of indoor and outdoor space booked, the show is more than 40% larger than last year when the country was in an economic tailspin.
Sixty-two manufacturers represented by 89 dealers are displaying approximately 1,000 towable and motorized RV at the show — up from 660 in 2009. The Hershey Show last year set a record for attendance with 32,033 despite the economic realities of the day.
Many manufacturers are giving consumers their first look at 2011 models. Included at the show are 11 recreational park model builders displaying their conventional and cottage-like trailers in a “Park Model Village.”
The Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Show drew a record 31,710 visitors Sept. 16-20 at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., an increase of 14% over last year.
And by all accounts, manufacturers exhibiting at the East Coast’s biggest annual trade and retail show were pleased with the outcome.
“Traffic was real good,” said Tim Tiffin, general manager of Tiffin Motor Homes, Red Bay, Ala. “It was a good bit over what we had last year. We were very pleased. It concreted our assertion that business has been getting better over the last few months.”
Although space of 440,787 square feet sold before the show was a little more than half of what it was last year, 59 manufacturers represented by 47 dealers displayed about 700 units while 117 suppliers occupied indoor and outdoor booths.
“We weren’t off on the number of manufacturers, but many of them downsized their display a lot,” said Heather Leach, director of education and marketing for the sponsoring Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA). “But people were there to buy. From the dealers and manufacturers that we talked to, they all had an excellent show. Some told us it was the best show they had had in years.”
“It was a fabulous show,” said show Chairman Dan Saltzgiver, owner of Reichart’s Camping Center, Hanover, Pa., who sold all 17 Forest River Rockwood travel trailers Reichart’s brought to Hershey. “Hopefully it’s an indication that the economy and industry is turning around.”
The Chicago area-based Camping World dealership network sold almost 400 units at its nine dealership display in Hershey, said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO.
“We sold 393 units for the show,” Lemonis said. “The bulk, more than 150, were Keystone (towables). What was most surprising, though, was the number of motorized we did. We did 68, most of them Class A’s.”
“Their displays did very well for us,” said Bob Martin, Keystone RV Co. executive vice president. “We don’t have our tallies in yet, but it looks like we sold more than we did last year.
“It was a sale environment and customers were definitely in a buying mode, which bodes well for the fall buying season and for next spring. The Hershey show always is an indicator. We definitely see this as a positive for our company and the industry.”
While declining to provide specific sales numbers, Roger Martin, Winnebago Industries Inc. vice president of sales and marketing, said that show sales were up 30% compared to last year.
“Traffic was excellent,” Martin said. “We had a very nice mix of products retailed — from Class C’s to Class A gas to Class A diesel. Consumer interest in our new Winnebago Via and Itasca Reyo was stellar — with lines waiting to get inside the units.”
Brian Wilkins, general manager of Wilkins RV in Bath, N.Y., said he was busy Monday sorting out orders. “There seemed to be for everybody very brisk business activity,” Wilkins said, noting that most of consumer’s interest was in fifth-wheels retailing from $30,000 to $70,000.
Recreational park trailer sales apparently also did well. “There were some happy looking manufactures that I talked to who said that things were moving,” said Bill Garpow, president of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
PRVCA’s Leach attributed part of the attendance boost to increased national magazine advertising and radio and TV promotions that reached into New York and Ohio. The weather also cooperated for a change.