Large crowds and robust sales at consumer RV shows in the first month of 2013 give the industry positive news for the start of a new year.
Building on a third straight year of shipments growth, the industry is poised for continued recovery in 2013, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported.
Across the country, RV shows are reporting high levels of attendance and strong business. This was the case at the Original Pittsburgh RV Show, organized by Rob Young.
“Our attendance was up 15% this year, and sales were up about 10% — and last year was a good year for dealers too,” Young said. “This has been a record year for us both in attendance and amount of space sold.”
This experience was shared by Joe Gonsalves, who runs the Northeast RV and Camping Show in Hartford, Conn. Gonsalves said he increased the size of his show by 10% this year, to account for increased demand from dealers and vendors.
“Attendance is up 13% this year,” said Gonsalves. “And dealers are reporting more sales than in the past few years.”
The RV show in Syracuse, N.Y., reported strong attendance and sales, as well. “Just from the start of this year — and the last quarter of 2012 — business has been booming for us,” said Kevin Bostrom of Camping World, which runs the Syracuse show. “Shipments and sales are way up.”
In Tennessee, the Knoxville RV Super Show drew more than 15,000 visitors.“This year’s show is much bigger due to last year’s success,” said show manager Rob Lynch. “We’ve got 30% more RVs and 15-20 more vendors. We’ve got everything from pop-up campers to half-million-dollar motorhomes.”
The Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa saw attendance rise slightly from 2012 to 54,255 — a new record for the show. “We didn’t knock the doors off, but it was better than last year,” said Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) President Lance Wilson. “We were very pleased. No. 1, we want to make sure enough people are there, and No. 1B is we want manufacturers to sell products. In most cases, people did very well.”
Similar reports emerged from shows in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. The 47th Annual Detroit Camper and RV Show saw record-breaking attendance with 21,000 attendees – a 13% rise over the last year’s previous record.
“The attendance for this show was phenomenal and it’s obvious the camping and outdoor lifestyle is growing,” said Dave Rochette, owner of Westland Camping Center, in Westland, Mich. “Interests are across the board, ranging from the small, less-expensive models, to the larger, luxury models.”
RVIA works to capitalize on the strong consumer enthusiasm for these shows with publicity efforts that target local media. This retail show publicity effort has resulted in show information and RV lifestyle stories published in Dayton, Ohio; Boston, Mass.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Denver, Colo.; and South Bend, Ind.
Coverage has been positive with a focus on large crowds, strong sales and innovative products at an array of price points.
Goshen, Ind.-based Keystone RV Co. announced today (Feb. 14) that sales for the month of January set an all-time record in the builder’s 17-year history. According to a press release, sales across all segments — travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers and toy haulers — were strong.
Keystone RV president Matt Zimmerman noted, “Certainly we are extremely pleased with the overall results from January but even more excited to hear what Keystone dealers are telling us about our products in the marketplace. Keystone brands are attracting strong interest, drawing crowds at shows and retailing quickly on dealers’ lots. This is a win for Keystone and our dealers.”
Zimmerman credits Keystone’s product development teams along with its dealer body for the company’s success in January.
“The way we are winning at Keystone is changing, and January’s sales results are evidence of that,” he said. “Each brand has created its own unique identity to help distinguish the brand from the rest of the field. Dealers welcome this approach and have responded with increased orders. Retail customers also have responded with increased interest and purchases.”
Zimmerman said the company is optimistic that 2013 will remain strong, and is closely watching its internal tracking numbers in order to keep production in balance with demand.
“This is as critical as product development,” he noted. “There is a difference between ‘force-feeding’ records and achieving record-setting results naturally. At Keystone, we are committed to getting the whole package right for our dealers, which includes making sure we have adequate supply of the right products while not overbuilding.”
For additional company information, visit www.Keystonerv.com.
RV businesses in West Texas are reporting record sales in the past several months, and many attribute the boost to oil companies. KTXS reported that the shale oil boom has caused hotels, homes and RV parks to fill up in parts of West Texas.
Randy Smith, president of Jerry’s Campers in Abilene, said more customers are buying earlier than ever before.
“These are people that just don’t have a place to live,” said Smith. “There’s no hotels, there’s no housing, and this is just their alternative. So yes, I’ve seen quite an increase.”
Workers are looking for used motorhomes, and he said it’s a struggle to keep up with the demand.
Hanner RV Supercenter in Baird has seen a 50% increase in sales over 2011.
“They’re out of housing so especially out west, all the hotels are all booked up – places for rent and sale are all gone so an RV is the next place to go,” said Connor Sloan, business manager.
He said he gets daily calls and visits from people in the oil industry.
“It’s either companies themselves buying up trailers or the individuals working for that company. So it’s typically men working for the oil company,” said Sloan.
He said RVs are convenient for work where being able to pick up and move quickly is part of the job description.
“A lot of the time with the oil it’s moving constantly, and with an RV it’s just easier to pack up and move on to the next spot,” said Sloan.
Hanner RV said its most popular models have been bunkhouse trailers that can fit up to a dozen people and toy haulers that can haul lots of heavy equipment.
Like many RV shoppers, Helen and Weldon Lack don’t want to have to buy a special towing vehicle just to pull their home-away-from-home down the highway.
They already own a half-ton pickup, so they’re looking for something fairly light but spacious for cross-country road trips and weekend getaways to San Luis Pass.
As reported by the San Antonio Express, the Lacks were kicking the tires Wednesday (Feb. 7) at the first day of the Houston RV Show, which runs through the weekend. The recently retired Lacks, who already own a 19-foot-long recreational vehicle, are looking to upgrade. They have their eye on a 26-footer, which would make cooking and tidying up easier and more comfortable.
Recreational vehicles are getting smaller, lighter, more aerodynamic and more fuel-efficient, said Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) in Reston, Va. Some are so small they can be towed by a Mini Cooper.
That trend, which began before the recession began, is in response to the increase in fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, he said. The new, lighter vehicles need lighter “towables,” the industry’s term for the RVs that attach with a trailer hitch and represent 90% of the new RV market.
Manufacturers can make significant design changes. A 27-inch television, for example, used to require two to three feet of cabinet space. Now manufacturers are installing flat-screen panels that hang on the wall.
Karen and John Sheehan were examining one of the show’s small and aerodynamically designed RVs, the “Little Guy,” a tear-drop-shaped camper that is little more than a bed. Pull up the back end and there’s the outdoor kitchen.
“I wouldn’t sleep in this,” said a laughing Karen Sheehan. “It’s too tiny.”
While the $8,995 camper wouldn’t work for the retired couple from Katy, it’s popular with hikers, couples and young families who drive a small car and need a small trailer.
An attachable tent allows the parents to sleep in the trailer and the kids in the tent, said Charlie Power, vice president of sales and finance for Holiday World of Houston.
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Thor Industries Inc. reported a 24.2% increase in sales for the company’s fiscal second quarter, ended Jan. 31.
Preliminary consolidated sales in the second quarter were $741.4 million compared with $597 million in the second quarter last year. RV sales were $636.1 million, up 27% from $501 million the previous year. Towable sales jumped 17.6% to $522.4 million from $444.2 million a year ago while motorized sales more than doubled to $113.7 million from $56.8 million. Bus sales were $105.3 million, up 9.7% from $96 million in the second quarter last year.
For the six months, sales totaled $1.62 billion, a 27.6% increase from $1.27 billion last year. RV sales gained 32.1% to $1.4 billion compared with $1.06 billion the year prior. Towable sales during the period rose 23% to $1.16 billion compared with $943.3 million last year and motorized sales increased to $235.9 million from $119.3 million. Bus sales were $219.5 million, up 5.9% from $207.3 million last year.
Cash, cash equivalents and investments on Jan. 31 were $107.2 million. Thor said the decrease in cash balances was due in large part to the payment of the $1.50 per share special dividend declared by the board and paid in December 2012.
Consolidated backlog on Jan. 31 was $822 million, up 27.1% from $646.9 million last year. RV backlog was $616.6 million, an increase of 49.4% from $412.8 million at the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2012. Towable RV backlog increased 25.2% to $375.4 million and motorized RV backlog more than doubled to $241.2 million Bus backlog was $205.4 million compared to $234.1 million at the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2012.
“Thor achieved solid gains in revenue for the second quarter as the momentum of our RV products introduced in the fall continued at Louisville in late November,” said said Peter B. Orthwein, Thor Chairman and CEO. “Indications from the early RV retail shows have been very positive, with increased traffic and higher sales levels, reflecting continued strength in our industry. Despite the improvements in RV sales, the overall environment in the towables market remains very competitive and elevated levels of incentives associated with orders placed at the fall Open House are reflected in our sales and our second-quarter operating results that we expect to report on March 7. In addition, the bus business continued to be characterized by aggressive competition during the second quarter.”
Spurred by the RV industry’s resurgence and a subsequent jump in sales over the past year, Southern California dealer Giant RV is poised to begin construction on a new dealership in Indio.
“We are back in expansion mode,” Frankie Barouti, vice president of Giant RV, told RVBUSINESS.com. “Business is strong and we see the opportunity to grow.”
Barouti reported that the 26-year-old company, which currently operates stores in Murietta, Colton, Corona and its home base in Montclair, also has long-term plans to open its first location in Orange County – a hotbed for RV dealers. Currently Giant RV, led by President Bob Barouti, employs approximately 270 people.
Situated on six acres in California’s Palm Desert region with immediate access to Interstate 10, the Indio property was purchased by Giant RV around seven years ago. Frankie Barouti said that initial landscaping was implemented after the land was secured, but the industry’s downturn delayed further construction.
“We brought in over 190 truck loads of dirt, bringing the land eye level with the 10 freeway,” he said. “It’s a great location, right next to the Auto Mall and in an area where there’s only one other dealership. We see a lot of potential.”
Giant RV is currently testing the market, operating a makeshift sales center from a suite of mobile offices and a huge tent area.
“Right now we’re just finalizing everything for construction,” Barouti said. “All the permits are in place and we’re talking to contractors.”
Giant RV’s vision, however, is well beyond the blueprint stage with completion projected for the fall.
“We are building a true state-of-the-art facility,” Barouti said. “The main building will be 5,000 square feet that will include sales and a full-service repair center with 14 bays. It’s going to based on the same design and upscale feel of our other stores.”
Barouti related that Giant RV is known as one of the premier dealers for toy haulers in the country and was a forerunner in the decidedly West Coast influence that fueled the sector’s rapid growth.
“We really dominated the toy hauler market over the last year 9 1/2 years,” he said, noting that the retailer sells a full range of new and used RVs. “Even during the downturn, we were able to bring in some of the hottest brands like Eclipse RV’s Attitude and the Cyclone from Heartland. We also added CrossRoad’s towable line.”
He added, “We’re back on it – doing what we do best – and are looking for another strong year. We think it’s a great time to expand and we see Indio as a great location for Giant RV.”
Organizers for the 28th Annual Fort Myers RV Show, held Jan. 24-27 at the Lee Civic Center, reported the event drew over 12,300 patrons while generating sales for dealer and vendor participants. According to a press release, the show was sponsored by Region 1 of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA).
“Everyone I spoke with at the show was generally pleased with the buying interest the public had,” said FRVTA Region 1 President Dan Wylie of Dream RV. “In fact, we had several dealers who achieved double-digit sales. All dealers came away with many sales leads they can now follow up over the coming weeks.”
While no attendance records were set, Show Manager Jack Carver said he was gratified the public responded so positively, especially following the economic turmoil the industry has suffered over the previous years. “We worked hard to put on a quality event that created a buying situation for all participants,” he said. “I’m very thankful the show was successful.”
This year’s annual event featured 17 dealers displaying well over 600 new RV units of all types, styles and price ranges. The show also staged 85 vendors selling everything from resort lots, insurance and permanent roof coatings to repair services and other enhancements for the RV lifestyle.
“Everyone seemed to be selling whatever they brought,” said Show Chairman Chris Morse of Skip Eppers RVs. “I’m still busy with traffic and additional sales a week after the show.”
Wylie added, “We are proud to offer dealers, vendors and patrons the best the RV Industry has to offer and look forward to helping spread consumer interest in the RV lifestyle.”
In advance of a highly anticipated spring selling season, Prime Time Manufacturing announced today (Feb. 4) a 71% increase in retail registrations for the month of January, according to a press release.
“Prime Time, like our dealers, has been very bullish on retail sales prospects going into 2013,” said Ken Walters, national sales manager for Wakarusa, Ind.-based Prime Time. “Our product managers unveiled a strong lineup of new, innovative floorplans, features and programs last fall at the Elkhart Open House and Louisville shows. Our dealers sensed the opportunity, aggressively stocked inventory, and subsequently had great success at the early retail shows. We expected strong growth, but a 71% increase over last year has been a pleasant surprise.”
Many of Prime Time’s largest dealers have benefited from record-level consumer traffic at their respective retail RV shows.
“With historically low interest rates still in place, there seems to be an upbeat attitude with our customers and they are coming out to buy a new RV,” said Eddie Unger, corporate sales manager of Tom Raper RVs in Richmond, Ind. “The Prime Time brands continue to be a hot seller for our dealerships and we have gotten off to a big start with their products so far this year.”
A division of Forest River Inc., Prime Time was founded in 2009 and enters 2013 as a top 10 brand in travel trailer and fifth-wheel registrations, according to Statistical Surveys Inc.
“It’s easy to show a 71% increase when you’re just starting, but we’ve been around the block a few times now and to still be growing at this rate is a huge compliment to our team here at Prime Time and our incredibly loyal dealers,” noted Walters.
Phil Abbott isn’t ready to declare victory yet but after a couple stale years during the down economy, the sales manager at a West Virginia dealership feels like the RV business is hopefully out of the woods. Or, into the woods, as it were.
As reported by the Herald Dispatch, Huntington, when it comes to RV sales and camping visits at regional state parks, things are trending up for the 2013 camping season, said travel and tourism industry workers gathered Sunday during the final day of the three-day Huntington RV and Boat Show that filled the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
“It’s been pretty stagnant the past few years, but we did pretty good at the show,” said Abbott, the sales manager at Burdette Camping Center, which along with Setzer’s World of Camping helps anchor the Huntington show. “I think what people are doing is spending less but if it’s under $20,000 people are still going to spend that. … They may be spending less, and they may not have as much time off, but they still love spending time with the family and going to places like Cave Run.”
While Abbott said Burdette is moving a lot of smaller units as well as doing big business in their service department as folks are hanging onto older units, the trend nationally projects continued RV growth in 2013.
According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RV shipments are projected to grow slightly in 2013. That uptick in spending also could be felt at area state parks as well.
If inquiries about campsite application forms for reservable sites at West Virginia’s state parks and forests is an indication, camping in 2013 could be a banner year, according to a recent state park press release.
While we are still in the heart of winter, West Virginia State Parks will begin processing mail-in reservation applications after Feb. 15.
Getting those reservations are important as many campgrounds fill up, especially during holiday seasons at the 29 state park areas that manage campgrounds.
“We can quickly change from a few dozen people to over 1,600 individuals seemingly overnight,” said Matt Yeager at Beech Fork State Park in the release. “Families like to camp. It is one of those quintessential summer pastimes.”
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The final numbers are in. And officially, as expected, it was a good year in the RV business in 2012.
The South Bend (Ind.) Tribune reported that a strong December fortified earlier monthly totals, all of which were higher than the corresponding month in 2011.
Shipments for December were up 11.6% over December of 2011. But more importantly, the strong finish resulted in the year’s total reaching 285,749, a 13.2% increase over 2011.
It is the third straight year annual numbers have been up over the previous year.
The strong showing is an indication that the American economy is stabilizing, said Mark Bowersox, executive director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC).
“That’s a positive sign. The RV business is by and large a consumer confidence business,” Bowersox said. “When you see continual stabilization and even slight growth in the market, that’s a real good thing for our business.
“The other piece of it, is the continued stabilization is bringing back that pent-up demand.”
Bowersox believes the drastic drop in RV demand from 2006 to 2009 had nothing to do with whether people wanted RVs or not.
“It was because they were uncomfortable with their personal economic situation,” he said.
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