The ROUTE 66 RV Network presented Darrell Slusser, owner of Sonny’s Camp-N-Travel in Duncan, S.C., and Concord, N.C., with the 5th Annual Larry Coker Commitment Award at its recent 2013 Rally held in San Antonio, Texas.
According to a press release, the annual award is named in memory of Larry Coker, a longtime RV industry colleague and ROUTE 66 employee who unexpectedly passed away in February, 2009. According to Dave Francis, partner in ROUTE 66, “Larry was committed to making the vision of the network a reality. His faith, sense of humor, optimism, humility and dedication were evident to everyone he met.”
The Larry Coker Commitment Award is given to the ROUTE 66 RV Network dealer who best reflects Coker’s total commitment to building the ROUTE 66 brand. ROUTE 66 partner, Rob Merrill says, ”Sonny’s Camp-N-Travel has been a member of the network for nine years and Darrell, along with his entire team, deeply embrace what it means to be a ROUTE 66 dealer. Darrell’s commitment to ROUTE 66 goes much further than integrating the network’s products and messages into his two dealership locations. He also faithfully served as an active member of the network’s advisory board the past two years offering his time, talents and wisdom to strengthen the organization on behalf of all participating dealers.”
Slusser noted, “While I’m honored to receive this award, I really don’t need an award to be all in with ROUTE 66. I believe in what this network is built on and what it stands for in our industry. As a member of ROUTE 66, I have access to many exclusive tools and programs that enable me to more successfully compete in my marketplace. I’m also blessed to know that there are over 150 dealers out there that have my back, and I have theirs, when it comes to serving each other’s traveling customers.”
In addition to the recognition, ROUTE 66 also donates the dealership’s total annual network membership fee to a college education fund in their name to support Coker’s daughter who is currently a college sophomore.
In less than 30 days, the ROUTE 66 RV Network in Canada has grown to 15 locations that represent over $100 million in RV sales, parts and service. And, according to a press release, the group continues to strengthen.
Rob Merrill, ROUTE 66 partner, noted, “Quality dealers attract quality dealers. Not only are these Canadian dealers very solid business operators with impressive dealerships, they have been serving their community’s RVing needs, on the average, for over 32 years. That’s certainly reassuring to customers knowing that they’ll be there when they need them.”
In the last couple of weeks ROUTE 66 has added five new locations in Canada, including:
• Smith’s RV Centre – Jason Johnstone – Thunder Bay, Ontario
• Outdoor Travel – Ken & Andy Whiting – Hamilton, Ontario
• Roulettes A.S. Levesque – Andre Levesque – Ste-Helenes/Trios-Rivieres, Quebec
• Roulettes Gilbert – Andre Levesque – Chateauguay, Quebec
Andre Levesque, president of A.S. Levesque, sees the growing strength of the group being a major benefit to his dealerships’ customers as they travel.
“RVs typically don’t experience mechanical issues close to home, it’s usually while out traveling and using the RV,” he said. “With this solid group of service-minded dealers I can rest assured that my customers will be well taken care of in both Canada and the U.S.”
Smith’s RV Centre’s general manager, Jason Johnstone, recognizes the group’s buying opportunities as the network’s footprint grows in Canada.
“Anytime you associate yourself with an organization that is larger than yourself you’ll realize greater economies of scale in your purchasing,” he said. “These advantages not only result in financial benefits for the dealership but also translate into great values for our customers.”
Outdoor Travel President Ken Whiting believes the engagement with ROUTE 66 in Canada will create a unique competitive advantage for his dealership.
“As a ROUTE 66 dealer we now have over 150 satellite locations in North America ready to help my customers as they travel,” he said. “No other RV dealer group provides a universal brand, like the ROUTE 66 shield, that offers RVers peace of mind knowing that they’ve got a friend close by willing to help.”
Additional dealers will be added to the ROUTE 66 RV Network in Canada with “the recommendation from these and other future member dealers,” according to Merrill. He noted that each dealership’s territory will be clearly defined to ensure every dealership enjoys market exclusivity in offering the network’s unique dealer and consumer program benefits in the U.S. and Canada.
The ROUTE 66 RV Network is comprised of RV dealers in North America with nearly 150 locations in 44 states and provinces and promises.
With 10 new locations on board and another 10 locations in the works, the ROUTE 66 RV Network is aggressively expanding in Canada.
“We’ve been contacted by interested dealers from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia” says Rob Merrill, ROUTE 66 partner, in a press release. “And to a tee, what attracts these dealers to ROUTE 66 is the unmatched opportunity to tie their local dealership to one common North American brand that has proven successful at serving traveling RVers.
“With ROUTE 66 dealers in nearly 40 states in the U.S., as well as a rapidly growing team of Canadian dealers adopting the ROUTE 66 brand, we are truly one major brand delivering one common promise: ‘Wherever the Road Takes You … You Can Count on Us’.”
The new ROUTE 66 Canadian dealers currently on board include:
• Triangle RV Centre – Sylvia Thistle-Miller – Sidney, British Columbia
• Chemo RV Sales & Service – Jason Bell – 150 Mile House/Quesnel, British Columbia
Kelowna RVs – Randy Woodside – Kelowna, British Columbia
Arkann Trailer & RV Centre – Ken Friedenberg – Edmonton, Alberta
R.V. Lifestyles – Neil Freidenberg – Calgary, Alaberta
Village RV – Darren Gelowitz – Regina, Saskatchewan
Transcona Trailer Sales – Garth Bromley – Winnipeg, Manitoba
Hiemstra Trailer Sales – Wayne Heimstra – London, Otario
Darren Gelowitz, president of Village RV, sees ROUTE 66 as a natural brand extension to his dealership’s mission and values. “In our 43 years in business we felt no one could look after our customers’ needs as well as we could,” he said. “As part of the Route 66 RV Network, we know that Village RV customers will be treated with the same friendly, experienced service as they travel from member dealers who care.”
Chemo RV’s general manager, Jason Bell, is excited about being a part of ROUTE 66 knowing the strength of the network and its brand in the U.S. “The excellent reputation the ROUTE 66 RV Network has earned in the US gives me a great deal of confidence in joining the network in Canada,” he said. “Partnering with nearly 150 like-minded dealerships in Canada and the U.S., we can rest assured that our customers will be well taken care of — like we would take of them — wherever they travel.”
One of the founding dealers of The Network in Canada, Sylvia Thistle-Miller of Triangle RV, believes ROUTE 66 not only serves dealers’ needs but also the interests of their customers. “Unlike other RV dealer networks, ROUTE 66 seeks to add value to our customers’ experience after they buy an RV,” she said. “They can get savings at nearly 500 KOA Campgrounds in North America, traveling discounts through the ROUTE 66 RV Club and the peace of mind that comes with the new ROUTE 66 Roadside/Tech24 program. They’ve built a true consumer brand.”
Owner/President Ken Friedenberg of Arrkann Trailer sees being a part of a highly recognizable North American brand as a major plus. “This will ensure that any of my customers who travel in Canada or the US will always see a familiar brand that reassures them that they have a friend they can count on,” he said. “ROUTE 66 not only gives us a unique customer benefit, but gives our customers a great deal of peace of mind as they travel.”
Additional dealers will be added to the ROUTE 66 RV Network in Canada with the recommendation from these and other future member dealers. Each dealership’s territory will be clearly defined to ensure every dealership enjoys market exclusivity in offering The Network’s unique dealer and consumer program benefits in the U.S. and Canada.
The ROUTE 66 RV Network encompasses nearly 150 locations in 44 states and provinces.
Special “Open House Week” and “Louisville Show” issues plus unique new trade promotions and Internet offerings are all part of the 2011-12 agenda for the new owners ofRVBusiness, according to a Monday (April 18) press release.
Partners Sherman Goldenberg, publisher, and Beverly Gardner, vice president of national advertising sales, announced in late March the acquisition from Affinity Group LLC of the RVBusiness brand — trademarks, domain names, the print publication and the RVBUSINESS.com website.
In the process, RVB, along with Editor Bruce Hampson, has moved from its Southern California headquarters to Elkhart, Ind.
“RVBusiness has assembled a team of editorial and sales people under its new ownership, G&G Media Group LLC, that’s positioned to maintain and enhance its competitive edge and move it ahead aggressively on all fronts throughout 2011 and beyond,“ says Goldenberg.
“We think the industry will appreciate the continued presence of a professional mainstream trade journal with an enhanced eye to all industry factions,” he adds. “RVIA, RVDA, RVAA, REDEX, Route 66, Camping World, RV D@ily Report, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, the Louisville Show and northern Indiana’s emerging Open House Week are all on our radar as we plot a centrist course toward mainstream – fair and balanced – news. And we intend to remain the ‘A-book’ for RV manufacturers.”
Gardner, best known for the Elkhart-based publishers’ rep firm that bears her name, Beverly Gardner & Associates, is backed up on advertising sales by her daughter, Ally Kollat, and sales associate Wendy Thorne. And the initial response from industry advertisers has been encouraging. “We’re excited about the opportunities that lie ahead,” said Gardner, “both editorially and commercially.”
Goldenberg adds, meanwhile, that one well known tradition will, in fact, continue in the new age of RVB – the “Louisville Tea Party,” a popular soiree held annually on the last night of RVIA’s National RV Trade Show. “It’s part of the tradition that we’ve cultivated over the years – bagpipes and all,” says Goldenberg. “We couldn’t imagine dropping the ball at this point.”
RVB’s new contact information:
CORPORATE & ADVERTISING SALES OFFICES:
RV BUSINESS/G&G MEDIA GROUP LLC
2901 E. BRISTOL STREET, SUITE B
ELKHART, IN 46514
(574) 266-7980, fax (574) 266-7984
SHERMAN GOLDENBERG, PARTNER/PUBLISHER
OFFICE: (574) 457-3370
CELL: (574) 457-6637
BEVERLY GARDNER, PARTNER/ VP NATIONAL AD SALES
(574) 266-7980 x12
BRUCE HAMPSON, EDITOR
(574) 266-7980 x13
ALLY KOLLAT, NATIONAL AD SALES
(574) 266-7980 x11
WENDY THORNE, NATIONAL AD SALES
(574) 266-7980 x14
TRINA NISSLEY, PRODUCTION MANAGER
(574) 266-7980 x10
Johnson RV in Portland, Ore., ended 2009 with record sales in merchandise and revenue, according to a news release.
Among keys to success during the current economy, company officials mostly credit their success to a strategic focus on offering “an incomparable pre-owned selection.”
“Going into 2009, we anticipated that sales would either fall flat or even dip,” said John Reed, controller at Johnson RV. “The economy was hitting our industry hard, and gas price increases didn’t help either. In fact, four of the major dealers in our region have either closed or downsized their businesses in the past year.
“However, month after month our sales figures steadily improved and by the end of the year, we had a 30% increase in units sold and a 35% increase in total dollar volume compared with 2008. That translates to over $2 million more in revenue for the year, which was an all-time record on our books.”
“We are fortunate to be ‘up’ in a down market,” said Brandon Johnson, owner and founder of Johnson RV. “We think our success in 2009 flowed from the strategic positioning we’ve had in place for years.”
Johnson noticed that although there are fewer buyers in a stressed economy, most who remain are purchasing pre-owned vehicles.
“We specialize in the pre-owned category and continue to bolster this area of our business by purchasing RVs and trailers from banks, dealership repossessions, business closures and financially strained consumer owners,” Johnson said. ”Quality control is maximized because I select the vehicles myself, ensuring that we only sell vehicles I’d be comfortable putting my own family in. Our expert staff immaculately prepares them for new ownership and we can still sell them for a fraction of their “retail” price. Our customers are savvy, and they immediately see the value we offer over our competitors.”
On top of financial gains last year, Johnson RV has created nearly 20 new jobs in their community with the opening of a new location at 41777 SE Highway 26 in Sandy, Ore. The all-inclusive seven-acre facility offers a comprehensive new and pre-owned RV sales facility, RV rentals, 12 state-of-the-art service bays, full paint and body shop, and retail parts and accessories store.
An official grand opening celebration will take place April 9-18. The company plans to open an additional store near the Portland market by the end of 2011.
Founded in 1998, Johnson RV is a family-owned and locally operated business that offers Oregon’s largest selection of high-quality recreational vehicles at competitive prices. The company currently employs a staff of over 30 skilled experts, holds Oregon’s largest selection of pre-owned RVs, and is the three-time winner of Jayco’s nationwide volume sales awards.
Currently, Johnson RV carries both pre-owned and new motorized vehicles, travel trailers and 5th wheel trailers. Johnson RV is the area’s dealer of Jayco, Pleasure Way, Gulfstream, Roadtrek and Heartland products. Also available is a full paint and collision department, camping store, a state of the art service facility and an RV rental department. A free warranty comes with every pre-owned RV purchase.
Johnson RV is a Route 66 dealer, which gives every customer access to hundreds of nationwide service locations after their purchase.
The Route 66 RV Network plans to roll out four new programs for its 95 dealer-members after the first of the year, including one that will optimize consumers’ ability to locate Route 66 dealers on the Internet.
”The Internet obviously has become more important to the RV industry,” said Dave Francis, managing partner of the Overland Park dealership network. ”It’s not a fad, and it’s not going to pass. It’s now a virtual world and dealers have got to realize how the virtual and physical worlds work together. They need to win that ground.”
The optimization program, along with new parts, retail financing and customer service programs, were highlighted during breakout sessions at the 6th Annual Route 66 Rally Sept.. 15-17 at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio attended by about 200 people.
The new programs will augment about 35 different ”partner relationships” Route 66 already has with suppliers of parts and accessories, insurance, certified pre-owned RV and other services.
”We had a terrific turnout in San Antonio,” Francis said. ”We went into this thinking it wasn’t going to necessarily be a great year, but I’ve been shocked. Although we were down a few dealerships, we had as many people at the rally as we had last year.”
Francis said that most dealers were upbeat about the RV industry’s fortunes during what appears to be a fading recession.
”I expected going into it that there would be a woe-is-me kind of attitude,” he said. ”That wasn’t the case at all. The end of the summer has been positive for the most part and I found a vast majority of our dealers very upbeat. It’s been tough, but they are moving forward. Everybody is hoping that the summer has a long tail into September and October to make up for some of the ‘down’ that everybody experienced in February through May.”
At the rally Route 66 introduced the ”Larry Coker Commitment Award” named for the group’s trainer who died in February. Coleran RV in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first recipient.
”Larry had just gotten through going to every one of our dealer locations and training more than 4,500 employees about what Route 66 is,” Francis said. ”Branding has been our focal point for the last two years and Larry exhibited and communicated to dealers what our brand is and what we stand for.”
RV travel and camping are receiving a timely boost with the debut of NBC’s Great American Road Trip, the reality TV show showcasing the adventures of seven families traveling in motorhomes on a cross-country road trip.
“This is tremendous exposure for the RV industry coming at a time when American families are focused on summer travel,” said Gary LaBella, RVIA vice president and chief marketing officer, in a news release following the show’s debut Tuesday night (July 7). “The message of the show reflects the appeal of RVing…that families reconnect and recharge as they spend time together traveling.”
Airing on NBC on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. EDT, the Great American Road Trip is a new series where seven families from divergent backgrounds take the vacation of a lifetime. Over eight episodes the families will travel iconic Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles in their own motorhome through cities large and small, all while competing in a medley of humorous challenges that will ultimately lead one family to victory.
El Monte RV, a national RV rental company, provided the motorhomes used in the Great American Road Trip. The units are Bounder type A motorhomes built by Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. RVIA’s Public Relations Department worked with the program’s producers on content and messaging.
“The premier really had some nice moments, including the beautiful sights seen from the RV and family and friends bonding at the campground,” said LaBella. “We’re hopeful this continues throughout the remainder of the show and grateful to El Monte for making this wonderful exposure possible. The series has the potential to make millions more American families aware of the benefits of RV travel and camping this summer and beyond.”
On July 7 NBC will premier “The Great American Road Trip,” a new reality series produced by BBC Worldwide featuring seven families of four taking a cross-country road trip in Class A motorhomes being supplied by El Monte RV.
Producers contacted the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) for assistance in obtaining motorhomes and identifying families for the show.
Over eight episodes, the families will travel classic Route 66 while competing in games that will ultimately lead one family to victory. These comical challenges will take place in well-known locations such as the Grand Canyon or along the Mississippi River. Along the way, viewers will see quirky American landmarks ranging from the World’s Largest Rocking Chair to the Muffler Men to Cadillac Ranch. Scenes will also be set in campgrounds.
Family outdoor fun is the centerpiece of the show. One family will be eliminated each week based on their performance in the “end of the road” elimination game. One family will win the grand prize.
NBC is promoting the new series heavily with promotion spots already airing. RVIA Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President Gary LaBella said, “‘The Great American Road Trip’ will showcase the fun of family RVing to a broad network audience. And as millions of American families look for affordable travel options this summer, we expect that NBC’s new reality show will guide many of these families to discover RVing.”