Baird Poll: Dealers Say Weather Slows 4Q Sales

January 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. recently partnered with the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) to contact 112 RV dealers regarding demand and sentiment during the fourth quarter. The following is a summary of the results.

RV momentum slows. Baird contacted 112 RV dealers in partnership with RVDA to assess recent trends. It’s the off-season, but demand slowed and inventory expanded – slowing some of the momentum that had been building. Dealers cited several factors, including unfavorable weather and national politics (shutdown, ObamaCare). Big picture, Baird believes the wealth effect for affluent consumers is releasing pent-up demand for RVs, supporting Baird’s favorable fundamental outlook. But with momentum slowing, Baird believe investors can afford to be patient.

Retail momentum slows. Dealers reported growth in motorhomes (+4-6%) and towables (+6-8%) in the October-December period. But traffic appeared to slow in November and December, with unfavorable weather and national politics playing a role during the seasonally weak period. Big picture, Baird continues to believe an emerging wealth effect is releasing pent-up demand. Towable retail has reached 90% of prior peak volume, while motorhome retail has recovered to just under 50% of prior peak.

Inventory is balanced, but more elevated. Dealer inventory appears balanced in motorhomes and towables, but appears higher than at this time last year. Based on anecdotal commentary, dealers appear comfortable with inventory levels, but may limit orders until demand accelerates. It is the off-season, so dealers have time to sort out their needs.

Sentiment still high, but weakened in Q4. The Baird/RVDA dealer sentiment index remains elevated, but weakened during the quarter. The 3-5 year outlook remained above 70 for the sixth consecutive quarter (71), but the measure of current conditions dropped from 68 to 57. Frustrated dealers blamed national politics, ObamaCare, and competition from multi-location and internet competitors. Net, dealers are optimistic – but some renewed doubt has surfaced.

Outlook. Although we are bullish on RV fundamentals, trends deteriorated in Q4. Big picture, Baird believes rising home values and a better stock market are creating more discretionary wealth for affluent consumers. Baird expects this wealth effect to release pent-up demand, especially where the recovery has yet to unfold – a trend that favors motorhomes over towables.

Contact your Baird representative for a complete copy of the dealer survey.

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Baird Sees Strong Indicators for Leisure Market

January 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. recently released its 2014 Consumer Leisure Outlook examining prospects for the discretionary spending marketplace. The following offers excerpts from the report.

2014 Outlook: 2013 was a banner year for consumer discretionary stocks. Fundamentals are in place for another good year, but further upside will rely on business momentum and nimble trading now that valuations have caught up. We believe a newfound wealth effect will release pent-up demand, especially in later-cycle categories. Meanwhile, inventory is healthy and new products are compelling.

Bullish on affluent consumers. We remain bullish on discretionary spending as the wealth effect releases pent-up demand. Although wages remain depressed, affluent consumers are benefitting from monetary policy aimed at reflating asset values, creating newfound wealth. We expect the newfound wealth to trigger the release of pent-up demand.

Emphasize long-duration assets. We favor late-cycle discretionary categories like boats and motorhomes, where pent-up demand has yet to be released. In essence, it takes more time for negative equity to evaporate on a 15-year boat loan than a five-year car loan.

Cautious on paycheck-to-paycheck consumer. Consumer spending tied just to wages will lag, in our view. The trend mostly applies to our automotive part retail coverage. Baird sees a silver lining in lower gas prices fueled by an energy renaissance in North America.

Three key cycles. In its consumer leisure coverage, Baird emphasizes three cycles: economic, inventory, and product. According to Baird, 2013 was as good as it gets. In keeping with its 2013 outlook Baird sees:

• A better economy released pent-up demand.

• Dealer inventory switched from a destocking trend to a restocking trend.

• Many brands launched fresh products. With an improving economy, balanced inventory, and more new products, we expect another good year fundamentally, but valuations have caught up.





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Baird is Still Bullish on Industry After Louisville

December 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The following are observations from an RV Field Trip conducted by Robert W. Baird & Co. during last week’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. The following are excerpts from Baird’s report issued in a note to investors.

Notes from RVIA trade show: Retail remains strong and credit remains accessible — fueling dealer optimism. Dealer inventory appears lean in motorhomes and more balanced in towables – with more pent-up demand yet to be released in motorhomes.

Baird hosted meetings with industry experts from Airstream Inc., Bank of America, Drew Industries Inc., GE Capital, the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), Thor Industries Inc. and Winnebago Industries Inc.. Highlights include:


• RVIA revised its shipment forecast during the show. Shipments are expected to increase 11% to 316K units in 2013 and increase 6.1% to 335K units in 2014. While the revised forecast reflects a downward revision in towable sales, RVIA expects motorhome sales to exceed the prior forecast.

• We believe the motorhome recovery is poised to continue, as negative equity is evaporating from these longer-duration assets. In contrast, towables are typically financed over a shorter period – recovering sooner than motorhomes – as negative equity evaporated more quickly.

• Discounting has abated – particularly in motorhomes – as robust retail demand coupled with supply constraints have created a strong dealer appetite for inventory.

Credit Conditions

•  Overall, credit remains accessible, though lenders require larger down payments relative to historical levels – particularly in higher-priced motorhomes.

• There is concern among industry lenders that an inventory build or excessive inventory aging will result from manufacturer incentive programs that pay the interest component for dealer inventory carried over the winter months.

■ Some industry lenders voiced concern that dealers are ill-prepared to handle a rise in interest rates – and the corresponding reduction in margin.

Industry Outlook & Trends

• Attendance at the Louisville show has been slipping in recent years, as more dealers participate in the Open House which takes place in September. At some point, the two shows may need to merge.

• Dealer consolidation has continued to evolve as an important industry trend. While the dealer base decreased by 20-25% during the recession, the current number of dealers  is still well below pre-recession levels, despite the current recovery. Net, Baird sees the dealer base continuing to consolidate as dealers use scale to obtain better purchasing leverage with manufacturers – a trend

•  The industry contacts noted trends toward international expansion in the industry – particularly with respect to China. While Baird sees some potential for expansion into the Chinese market, it sees high barriers to entry prohibiting any meaningful penetration of the market in the near-to-medium term.



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Baird Survey: Dealer Sentiment High During 3Q

October 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. recently partnered with the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) to contact 133 RV dealers regarding demand and sentiment during the third quarter. The following is a summary of the results.

RV momentum continues. Demand remains strong and inventory appears lean-to-balanced. We maintain a bullish fundamental outlook and would look to be more aggressive on weakness. We believe improved asset values (homes and investments) are fueling a wealth effect for RV buyers, releasing pent-up demand. With lean-to-balanced dealer inventory, it is a good environment for manufacturers. Meanwhile, we are losing confidence that a better opportunity will present itself.

Retail remains healthy. Dealers reported robust growth in motorhomes (+18-20%) and towables (+11-13%) in the third quarter. Baird believes better used values combined with a better housing market and higher stock prices have helped reduce the negative equity that had prevented consumers from purchasing new RVs.

Inventory is lean-to-balanced. Dealer inventory appears lean in motorhomes and balanced in towables. Measured in days, inventory appears flat versus last year – but motorhome dealers want more while towable dealers want less. A limited supply of Class A chassis has exacerbated the inventory shortage.

Discounting has abated. Dealers report a less promotional environment, suggesting better margins for manufacturers. In motorhomes, 30% of dealers report fewer OEM discounts versus 7% that report more. The same trend holds for towables, where 26% of dealers report fewer OEM discounts versus just 8% that report more.

Sentiment near record highs. The Baird/RVDA dealer sentiment index remains near record levels. Dealers are concerned that an ineffective government and the Affordable Care Act could throw a wrench in the engine – but overall, optimism reigns.

Please contact your Baird representative for a complete copy of the dealer survey.

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Baird: Thor Broadens Portfolio At Open House

September 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Robert W. Baird & Co. met with Thor Industries Inc. management and dealers during this week’s Elkhart County RV Open House. The following offers excerpts from Baird’s note to investors.

Notes from Elkhart show. We met with management and dealers at the dealer open house in Elkhart, Ind. The meetings showcased important extensions to the product portfolio. Dealers showed substantial interest in a new Class A product. Dealer inventory remains lean (motorhomes) to balanced (towables), according to our checks.

New products and positioning. Thor introduced a host of new products, most notably the new Vegas and Axis Class A models. Class A chassis have been in limited supply, with most manufacturers on allocation through early next year. To work around the supply constraint, and meet an attractive low price point near $70,000, Thor is building these new Class A models on Class C chassis – an apparent first in the industry.

Dealer inventory lean to balanced. Management characterized dealer inventory as lean to balanced, according to Thor – largely consistent with our checks. Expect strong motorhome backlogs as Thor and other manufacturers struggle to keep pace with demand while chassis supply remains limited.

Less discounting than last year. Promotional activity has become the norm in the RV industry, especially in towables, but Thor is discounting less than it did last year. Management indicated the pricing environment has improved substantially versus last year, likely the result of better management incentives and improved discipline under the leadership of new CEO Bob Martin.

Expanding into new markets. We gained a better appreciation for the upside associated with the recent Livin’ Lite RV LLC acquisition. The brand allows Thor to enter two new markets:

• Camping trailers: Thor will enter the high-end portion of the camping trailer segment, a market Thor had not addressed in the past.

• China: Thor is exporting American-made Livin’ Lite RVs to China – a remarkable development. Volume is small, but the opportunity holds promise as the Chinese middle class expands.

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Baird: May Coach Sales Show Strong Demand

July 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The investment firm of Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter after this week’s release by Statistical Surveys Inc. of the summary of retail sales of motorhomes in May. Excerpts from the Baird newsletter follow.

U.S. motorhome retail up 28%. According to data from Statistical Surveys, motorhome (Class A & C) retail increased 28% in May. Class A sales jumped 29% while Class C retail improved 27%. Thor motorhome retail demand increased 35% in May, the first month of the company’s fiscal Q4. Winnebago reported results for its May quarter on June 27.

Motorhome retail registrations in the U.S. increased 28% in May. Class A registrations improved 29% while Class C reported registrations increased 27% in May. The robust growth is consistent with the strong retail trends reported in our recent dealer survey. According to SSI, year-to-date Class A retail improved 28% while Class C demand jumped 31% through May. Industry comparisons become more difficult in June.

Thor retail up 35% in May. Thor U.S. motorhome retail demand jumped 35% in May, which represents the first month of Thor’s fiscal Q4. The growth was driven by robust demand for Class A models (+47%) and strong growth in Class C (+25%). We model Thor North American motorhome retail growth of 35% in fiscal Q4, consistent with the early-quarter trends.

Winnebago. Winnebago already reported fiscal Q3 results on June 27, so the data are not incremental. Winnebago results implied North America motorhome retail improved 23% in the May quarter.

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Baird Dealer Survey: 2Q Demand Was ‘Robust’

July 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. recently partnered with the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) to contact 146 RV dealers regarding demand during the second quarter. The following is a summary of the results.

Solid industry trends continue. Dealers indicated that peak-season trends are very strong – particularly in motorhomes. Retail demand was robust – new motorhome demand jumped 28% while new towable demand improved 11%. Meanwhile, inventory is lean-to-balanced and dealer sentiment remains high, leaving manufacturers well-positioned as the evaporation of negative equity spurs new retail demand. We remain bullish on fundamentals and would look to add on weakness.

Peak-season strength. Dealers reported robust growth in motorhomes (+27-29%) and solid demand for towables (+10-12%) in April-June. Dealers also noted strong demand for used RVs (particularly motorhomes), driving used values higher according to dealers. We believe better used RV values (combined with a better housing market and higher stock prices) have helped reduce the negative equity that had prevented consumers from purchasing new RVs.

Dealers short on motorhomes. Dealer inventory appears lean in motorhomes and balanced in towables. On a days inventory basis, motorhome inventory appears flat relative to last year (99 days vs. 101 days), but by a 9:1 ratio dealers indicated that inventory was “too low” versus “too high.” The desire for inventory is also evident in the strong motorhome backlogs Winnebago (+130%) and Thor (+105%) recently reported. A limited supply of Class A chassis has exacerbated the inventory shortage. The number of days of towable inventory also appears flat, but slightly more dealers consider inventory “too low” than “too high” – a sequential improvement. Recall that dealers stocked up ahead of the retail season – a bet that paid off.

Dealer sentiment high. Dealer sentiment remains near record levels, based on our proprietary index, but fell slightly versus April. Some dealers pointed to Internet competition and supply shortages as sources of frustration, but strong retail trends and favorable credit conditions keep confidence high. We note that credit has been a tailwind in recent years but could face a challenge as interest rates rise – a trend to watch.

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Baird: Winnebago’s Product Mix Fuels Demand

June 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The investment firm of Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter following Thursday’s release of Winnebago Industries Inc.’s fiscal third quarter report. Portions of the Baird newsletter follow.

Robust backlog highlights impressive quarter. Winnebago drove home an impressive quarter, highlighted by strong retail growth and robust dealer orders. Big picture, bullish fundamental outlook is unchanged. We expect better shipments as consumer demand grows (fueled by new products and less negative equity) and confident dealers restock depleted inventory.

Strong retail and dealer demand. Winnebago reported an excellent quarter. The budding RV recovery is now in full bloom as once-reluctant consumers are starting to buy. We believe that the negative equity cloud (consumers that were under water in their RV, home and retirement portfolio) has begun to lift, stimulating better replacement demand. Better home values and a stronger stock market have helped – but Winnebago is also leading with new products that dealers crave. Confident dealers continue to replenish depleted dealer inventory, fueling robust orders and a stunning backlog.

Revenue. Revenue surged 40% on strong retail and dealer demand.

Retail. Implied motorhome retail jumped 23%, ahead of our forecast (strong rental).

Inventory. Dealer inventory increased 36%; checks confirm room for further restocking.

Backlog. The motorhome backlog surged 130%.

Dealer confidence and new products fuel huge backlog. The motorhome backlog increased 130% to 2,846 units, nearly 2 times our Q4 shipment forecast. The abnormally high backlog is a function of strong retail demand, confident dealers, new products, and the limited availability of motorhome chassis, which has encouraged some dealers to order aggressively to ensure some deliveries.


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Baird: Thor Beats Estimates on Higher Margins

June 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The investment firm of Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter following Thursday’s release of Thor Industries Inc.’s third quarter report. Portions of the Baird newsletter follow.

Raising price target. Earnings per share (EPS) exceeded expectations on significantly better margin. The margin trend is encouraging as it appears sustainable. We raised our F2013 and F2014 outlook and see potential to earn near $4.50/share in a robust recovery scenario, supporting our revised $48 price target. Fundamentally, we continue to expect demand to recover as negative equity evaporates. Meanwhile, dealer inventory increased 14% to support retail growth but appears fresh. The weak margin overhang has begun to clear, supporting a brighter outlook.

EPS upside. Adjusted EPS significantly exceeded consensus expectations (97 cents vs. 88 cents), driven by solid margin upside. A lower tax rated added 4 cents. Adjusted EPS excludes a 15 cent loss related the sale of the ambulance business. Management previously had expected second-half operating margin to be “consistent with” the second half of last year – but with adjusted EBIT margin 50bp better in Q3, trends clearly have improved. Recall that Thor previously reported strong revenue growth (+13%) and a healthy backlog (+24%) in May.

Encouraging margin recovery. After a period of excessive discounting, promotional pricing has “stabilized.” Thor discounted to defend lot space early in the season, betting that strong retail would support follow-on orders at better margins. With retail up 12% and margin improving, the plan worked. Meanwhile, actions to drive a 200bp margin recovery over three years are gaining traction, supporting a more optimistic profit scenario.

Big picture. We are warming to Thor as margin pressure abates. As the leading RV manufacturer, Thor is particularly well positioned to capitalize on a robust cyclical recovery. We believe the negative equity overhang that has delayed the replacement cycle has begun to clear, supporting a more optimistic outlook. We raised our price target to $48 and would look to add, especially on a pullback.

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Baird: March Sales Faced Difficult Comparison

May 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The investment firm of Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter following this week’s release of retail RV sales activity in March reported by Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI). Portions of the Baird newsletter follow.

U.S. towable retail down 1% in March. According to data from Statistical Surveys Inc., unit retail sales in major towable categories (travel trailers and fifth-wheels) decreased 1% in March, decelerating from the recent strong growth against a difficult comparison (+22%). Thor demand declined 1% in March, the second month of the company’s fiscal Q3, leaving quarter-to-date retail down 1%. Thor reported preliminary sales on May 2. Winnebago (a smaller player in the towable market) retail improved 1% in March.

March towable demand declined 1% (travel trailers and fifth-wheels). Travel trailer demand improved 1%, while fifth-wheel retail sales declined 4%. The towable market faced a difficult comparison in March (+22%), but the comparison eases in April (+2%). Data indicate that towable demand increased 9% through March.

Thor retail declines slightly. Thor U.S. travel trailer and fifth-wheel retail fell 1% in March, which represents the second month of Thor’s fiscal Q3. Weaker demand in fifth-wheels (-9%) offset growth in travel trailers (+3%). We model Thor North American retail growth of +8% in fiscal Q3, but note that the preliminary SSI data are frequently revised higher.

Winnebago. Winnebago U.S. towable retail improved 1% in March, the first month of the company’s fiscal Q3. We model Winnebago North American retail growth of +15% in fiscal Q3. Towables represent just 10% of revenue for the company, which entered the market in 2011 with under 1% share — note that given Winnebago’s small market position, even a few incremental units can lead to large swings in growth rates.

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