Systems 2000, American Guardian Warranty Services, RV America and RV123.com announced the winners of the free-to-play blackjack tournament hosted at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Louisville, Ky., during last week’s National RV Trade Show. The annual tournament took place Nov. 29 following trade show festivities.
According to a press release, the tournament consisted of two 45-minute rounds. Participants started with $10,000 in poker chips and at the end of each round, the person with the most chips won $1,000 in cash.
Helen Zag from Greeneway RV in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., won in the first round after earning $497,000 in chips, according to Systems 2000. Dave Maloney from Maloney’s RV in Paradise, Newfoundland, Canada, won the second round after earning a record-breaking $1.2 million in chips.
More than $1,000 in cash prizes were given out in raffle drawings throughout the night, according to sponsors.
RV America, one of the largest RV insurance agency in the U.S., announced that Jacob Richardson has joined the management team.
According to a press release, Richardson will report directly to the president and owner, Steve Freedman. RV America’s team of nine sales representatives will report to Richardson.
“I’m thrilled to be part of Steve’s organization,” explained Richardson. “Steve and RV America have a stellar reputation. It’s exciting to work for the leader in the industry and grow its newest business, extended service contracts.”
Prior to RV America, Richardson served as the national sales manager for Interstate National Dealer Services for 15 years. At Interstate National, Richardson was responsible for managing the company’s independent sales force consisting of over 100 representatives across the country.
“We’re making extended service contracts a bigger part of our business and needed an expert like Jacob to lead our team,” said Freedman. “Service Star, RV America’s service contract business, has quickly attracted RV, Powersport, and Marine dealers across the country. We need a powerhouse like Jacob to meet with RV dealers and explain how RV America’s Service Star extended service contracts provide the coverage and service their customers want.”
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More people are answering the call of the open road, according to the Denver Business Journal.
Recreational vehicle dealers report big sales increases, and RV show organizers say there’s been higher attendance at their events in early 2010.
The number of RV units shipped from national manufacturers to dealers rose by 116% from January 2009 to January 2010, from 7,300 units to 15,800, according to the Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The numbers have spurred RVIA officials to predict shipments will increase 30% this year, a predictor of vehicle sales.
That growing interest in motorized homes and non-motorized trailers was visible at two Denver-area RV shows this year. Attendance at January’s Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show at the Colorado Convention Center rose by 24% over last year. And it was up 14% at March’s Colorado RV, Sports, Boat and Travel Show at the National Western Complex, said Vilma Fraguada, regional manager for Affinity Events, organizer of both shows.
That increased interest is apparently leading to more sales. Chris Sach, vice president of RV America, said that sales at his four Front Range locations are up 22% in the first 2½ months of this year compared to the year-ago period. Buyers range across the age spectrum, he said.
There is no one reason for the jump in sales, RV officials said. But with the economy loosening up, buyers are more apt to make purchases. Also, there’s an apparent change in the way people vacation in this country.
“As people start looking for ways to spend less on vacation … an RV is a really good way to do that,” said Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the RVIA. “[The industry is] coming back. We’re not all the way there yet, but we’re on the way.”
The RV business got hit harder than many others in the past two years, as shipments to dealers fell 32.9% from 2007 to 2008 and another 30.1% the next year, according to RVIA data. Those numbers were exacerbated by the fact that while sales of lower-cost trailers fell by 26.9% last year, those of higher-cost motorized homes dipped 53.4%, Broom said.
High-end motorhomes can cost in the low six figures, and may be equipped with 32-inch TVs, surround-sound home theater systems and full-sized refrigerators.
About 6%, or 180, of the roughly 3,000 dealers nationwide at the beginning of 2008 closed by the end of 2009, said Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communications for the national Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) of Fairfax, Va. Fraguada said she knew of at least four Colorado dealers that closed during that time.
And Broom estimated that, counting manufacturers, suppliers and dealers, as much as 50% of the industry lost jobs in 2008 and 2009.
Lower consumer confidence and a tight credit market were the biggest factors affecting RV sales, Broom said. Potential buyers were denied loans for the six-figure vehicles, just as home buyers and startup businesses couldn’t get credit.
But things began to turn around in the second half of 2009, then jumped at the start of 2010, and the RVIA predicts 215,900 units will be shipped in 2010. Dealers are restocking, consumer confidence is at a reasonable level again and credit markets are returning to normalcy, Broom said.
RV dealers haven’t slashed prices drastically as some other retail industries have done. But they have started making former luxury features such as GPS systems and washer-dryer sets standard in their new vehicles, Fraguada said.
The newer RVs also are more fuel-efficient, appealing to people who want to travel more cheaply and be more environmentally friendly, she said.
RV America locations are attracting new customers, who talk about the advantages of being able to cook their own food and avoid paying for motels on vacations, Sach said. Longer trips are in line with the trend of families spending more time together or using vacation time to visit friends and other family members, he said.
Linda Frederickson, who is nearing retirement after 32 years as a network manager for Qwest Communications International, purchased a 34-foot motorhome for $105,500 in mid-March — and sold her Lakewood house. She hopes to travel with friends and to see family members, and she didn’t want the hassle of trying to catch flights and book rooms constantly, she said.
“I just don’t think flying or staying in a hotel room would have as much appeal for me,” Frederickson said. “This way, I can just take my time, go around and check things out. … I think I got an excellent deal.”
RVs won’t be taking over the world. The 33,683 motorhomes registered in Colorado in 2009 were just 0.7% of all vehicles registered in the state, according to the state Department of Revenue.
But Sach, who has seen several industry cycles, said this feels like a permanent shift in which people might be coming back to a home on wheels.
“I believe people are ready to have fun and spend time with their families and quit worrying about whether the market is up or down,” he said.
RV enthusiasts turned out in better than expected numbers last week at the 20th Annual Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show as well as the 24th Annual Washington Camping RV Expo, sponsored by GEICO, according to a press release.
The shows rolled into Denver and Chantilly last week, filling the respective venues with new 2010 Class A, B and C motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, toy haulers, truck campers and tent trailers, as well as campgrounds, RV and camping accessories and entertainment.
Both shows reported strong sales and significantly increased attendance over 2009 – a 28% increase in Denver and 65% increase in Chantilly – leading many to question if the recession had indeed abated.
According to Dianne Seymour, show manager of the Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show, “Attendees were lining up at the doors each morning, and we had quite a crowd that stayed until the show’s end every night. People were clearly excited about the RV lifestyle and eager to see what the dealers and exhibitors were offering.”
Jim Humble, general manager of Windish RV, said, “It was a fantastic show. This year, we sold double the units we sold last year. This was a quality crowd that was here to buy. We are just thrilled.”
Chris Sach of RV America concurred, “The show absolutely exceeded our expectations. Sales were very strong and we sold a lot of units, many more than last year. Sales of high-end fifth-wheels were especially strong.”
Numbers at the Washington Camping RV Expo were at an all-time high. Thom Beckley, of Endless Summer RV, marveled, “The crowd on Friday was phenomenal as far as number of attendees. At one point, we had 35 people inside one of our RVs with another 30-40 lined up outside, and that is something we don’t typically see. This definitely looks good for the upcoming season.”
Jeff Haughton, Eastern vice president, regional manager of Affinity Events, added, “We are very excited to see large crowds at these early shows. This demonstrates that there is a solid demand in RVs for 2010.”
Affinity Events will welcome RV enthusiasts to get ready for the great outdoors with upcoming RV shows in Edison, N.J.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Charlotte, N.C.; Providence, R.I.; and Raleigh, N.C. These shows will feature a variety of RVs, campground information and accessories along with expert advice and entertainment.
Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) is the parent company of Affinity Events and RVBUSINESS.com.