Editor’s Note: Today’s video is from WNDU, South Bend, Ind., offering a rundown of last weekend’s RV show at the Hall of Fame hosted by local dealers. Below is an accompanying story.
More than 500 people stopped in Elkhart, Ind., for an RV Show over the weekend, signaling the industry is starting to turn around.
WNDU TV reported that several Elkhart RV dealers hosted the event at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum Friday (April 27) through Sunday.
“Things are starting to turn around,” said Elkhart RV Center Sales Manager Scot Moody. “Production’s starting to pick up, the retail customers are starting to come back out, we’re starting to see more retail traffic.”
It seems one of the industries hit hardest during the recession is making one of the strongest comebacks in Elkhart County.
Several folks actually purchased RVs at the show over the weekend.
“Everything’s been selling,” Moody said. “We’ve got everything from a high end fifth wheel for $100,000 down to a travel trailer that’s $9,999. Anything you want you can get for the family.”
Moody says part of the reason for the turnaround is simple math.
Families are buying RVs so trips to local destinations seem like vacations – and they’re saving a lot of cash in the long run.
“We can cook our own meals on the spot, so we’re actually saving money as opposed to going hoteling,” said RV owner Mark T. Stuber.
But in order to make a full recovery in the new economy, RV manufacturers are having to change the way they do business and find ways to make the gas guzzling vehicles cheaper to drive.
“It needs to be light enough that you’re not running 25,000 pounds down the road because weight costs fuel economy,” Stuber said.
Region One of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) returns for its 17th annual RV show at the Lee County Sports Complex/Hammond Stadium in south Fort Myers, according to a press release.
Nelda Iacono, president of Region One, reported that the April 20-22 event will feature 11 dealers from throughout Florida’s Gulf Coast displaying a wide selection of new and used recreation vehicles of all styles, brands and price ranges. RV suppliers also will be on hand with financing for qualified buyers available.
“This event is held just before the summer traveling season, so consumers can make their plans to see our great nation,” Nelda explains. “Dealers also need to reduce their inventory from the busy winter season, so prices for new and used RVs have been reduced as well.”
FRVTA said that financing for both dealer inventory and qualified buyers has improved, resulting in a market that has seen RV sales markedly recover for both new and used merchandise.
“Statistics continue to show that an RV vacation is much less expensive than other vacation travel options, even when a purchase is factored in,” Nelda explained. “Even with the recent increase in fuel costs, an RV vacation is still a bargain.”
Visit www.FRVTA.org/rv-shows for more information.
The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) reported that numbers have been strong at the eight regional shows held throughout the state this year.
According to a press release, the show season kicked off with the Fort Myers RV Show in January. Marking its 27th year, the event featured 15 Gulf Coast dealers along with over 100 vendors. Show Chairman Chris Morse reported heavy traffic of over 11,500 attendees along with steady sales by participating dealers. “While customer traffic was very good, our dealer body was very pleased with the many sales made at the show and afterwards,” he said.
Results from other shows included:
• The Ocala RV Show, held the last week in January, drew over 5,300 people despite a day of rain on Friday and moving to a new location this year. “This was the first year at the new location adjacent to the Super Flea Market, which gave us great visibility from I-75,” said FRVTA Marketing Director Dave Kelly. “It’s easier to get to and we are closer to town than the old location. I believe we would have had a better crowd if not for the big accident on I-75 on Sunday morning.”
• The Jacksonville RV Show returned for the third year to the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. “We used a new promotion to prompt visitors to go to every dealer and get a card stamped that made them eligible for a drawing every hour for a $50 gas card,” said Region 6 President Tom Tibbitts. “This not only got people to visit every dealer, it also gave every dealer the chance to interact with every visitor.”
• The Central Florida RV Show, held at the Volusia County Fairgrounds in DeLand the third weekend of February, was impacted by poor weather and competing with the new dates for the Daytona 500. “We really felt the effects of the new dates for the Daytona 500 and the bad weather didn’t do us any favors either,” said Ken Prentiss, Region 4 President. “We will be addressing these concerns at our next meeting to make sure we don’t get into the same situation next year.”
• The 6th Annual Spring Clean-out RV Show took place the last weekend in February. The admission-free event is held in conjunction with an annual home and garden show at Germain Arena, which is situated along I-75 and adjacent to a large outlet mall. Beautiful weather drew an increased patron count of more than 3,500 attendees over three days to see new and used product from seven dealers. “This event is designed to attract those undecided customers from our January event,” explained Show Manager Jack Carver. “We also target the many RVers in the Naples-area market where no RV Dealers are located.”
• The Destin Commons RV Show was held in the parking lot at the Destin Commons Mall in front of the Bass Pro Shops which drew a lot of outdoor enthusiasts. This show is free to the public so there is no record of actual attendance. The three participating dealers even had good crowds during the set up of the show. “I think we all sold something even before the show opened on Thursday,” said Region 5 President Neal Stewart. “We are looking at other facilities that will allow us to set up a paid gate.”
• The West Palm Beach RV Show was staged during the second week of March. Held in the parking lot of the South Florida Fairgrounds, this show had about the same attendance as last year in spite of rain on three of the four days. Over 4,500 people attended the event over the weekend with most of the dealers reporting good sales.
• The final show in March was the Tampa Bay Spring RV Show held in the middle of the month at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. Moving the show from last year’s Plant City site proved to be a winning strategy as the event, which drew 2,500 last year, attracted close to 3,000 consumers over the four days of the show. Additionally, great weather and an aggressive ad campaign added up to a busy weekend.
The FRVTA will stage two more RV Shows this season before wrapping things up. The 17th Annual RV SuperSaver Show in Fort Myers in mid-April and the Stuart RV Show in May are expected to continue drawing consumers interested in the RV Lifestyle.
For more information, contact the FRVTA at 813-741-0488 or www.frvta.org.
Organizers for the 20th Annual Northwest Michigan Camper and RV Show said the event offered evidence that the RV industry is on the rebound in the state. The show, hosted by the Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), ran March 30-April 1 at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center in Traverse City.
As reported by the Leader and Kalkaskian, MARVAC Director Bill Sheffer said that while the event saw average attendance in comparison to previous years, the popularity of the RV and camping industry is on the rise throughout Michigan and across the country.
Over 50 units and 15 brands of recreational vehicles from area dealerships were displayed at the event, ranging in price from $4,000 to over $75,000, giving attendees a good look at the wide range of products available.
“In 2011, RV sales were up 11.5% from the year before in Michigan,” Sheffer said.
Sales are still considerably lower than they were before the nationwide recession, however. According to the MARVAC website, 17,225 motorhomes and towable units were sold in 2003, dropping to 13,973 in 2005 and as low as 8,718 in 2009. The industry began to see a rebound in 2010, with sales climbing back up to 10,877. In 2011, a total of 10,953 units were sold.
“The typical thing in the recreational vehicle industry in regards to the economy is we’re usually one of the first to go into a recession and we’re the first to come out of a recession,” Sheffer said. “People feel comfortable that they can start again having more leisure time and spending more time with the family, so that’s when they tend to start buying RVs again.”
Michigan was ranked fourth in the country in new RV sales, behind California, Texas and Florida, Sheffer said. He said that Michigan and Florida vie for the ranks of third and fourth each year. In Michigan, there are an estimated 325,000 RV owners, Sheffer said.
Those who choose to go camping, even those who choose to invest in new RVs, see a cost savings over time in comparison to other vacation and travel options, Sheffer said. He said that the average price for a new RV range from around $20,000 to $25,000 and that they can typically be financed at an affordable rate.
“When you look at the savings … for when you travel, campground rental is somewhere between $25 and $30 an evening,” Sheffer said. “You prepare all your meals in your RV as opposed to going out to dinner and eating. Entertainment value is priceless, because you’re staying in a campground. You have all the amenities of the campground … and all the things that go along with the camping lifestyle. It makes for a great vacation.”
MARVAC’s next RV show is scheduled for Oct. 3-7 in Novi. Sheffer said that RV shows are a good place to begin shopping around for RVs, though he said it is more favorable to the purchaser to buy directly from a licensed RV dealership rather than at a show.
Based on customer sentiment and buying patterns, it looks to be a very good year for the RV industry, according to KZ RV LP dealers who saw encouraging activity during this winter’s RV shows.
In a press release from Shipshewana, Ind.-based KZ, dealers reported that show attendance was up and sales were “very pleasantly way up,” said John Gajewski, sales manager of King’s Campers in Wausau, Wis. “We almost doubled our record attendance at our open house, which we’ve had on the same weekend for the last 16 years,” he said. “We got maybe 6,000 people coming through over four days.”
John Petrie, president of Niagara Trailers in St. Davids, Ontario, had similar experiences. “Our first show, we had an 87% rise in unit sales over last year,” he said, noting that the Sportsmen Classic, Spree Escape and Coyote travel trailers by KZ did very well at his dealership’s three shows. But what surprised him was how well the bigger fifth-wheels were received.
“Fifth-wheels are definitely popular right now, particularly the Durango and StoneRidge, and there was lots more toy hauler activity,” Petrie said. “This season what’s doing really well is KZ’s 40th anniversary units.”
The release stated that the anniversary units “bring back some classic features of KZ’s historically successful RVs with contemporary presentation and technology.”
In addition, the “show stopper” models, fashioned and priced specifically for dealers to use at winter shows, found success at Niagara Trailers.
“The big thing that hit the market for us was the KZ show stoppers. Before, we only sold four the whole season. This year, we sold nine just during the first show. They seemed to really take off,” said Petrie. “KZ has lots more awareness in Ontario now. They’re a family owned company so they can make decisions about how to make what sells based on feedback from the dealers, and that really helps.”
Both dealers found an overall increase this winter in buyers new to RVing. “Maybe 30% of our customers were new buyers, which is a very nice number,” Gajewski said. “These shows definitely show us getting a good chunk of new customers.”
“There was an increase in purchases by people who are all new to RVing, but ironically we also had more trade-ins than before,” said Petrie. “These are people who used to be into RVing and are now coming back in, which is the opposite of the last two years.”
Whatever features and floorplans customers seek out, the recession-era shift to offering more for less in order to keep business flowing has made an impression on customer expectations. “What people really want is more amenities for less money, to be frank,” Gajewski said, and Petrie agreed: “As far as features, most RVs come with so many features in the package anymore, it’s almost the expected now.”
According to KZ, gas prices don’t seem to be dampening enthusiasm. “Customer attitude this year is surprisingly good. You don’t hear gas comments as much any more. It hasn’t been a focus,” Gajewski reported.
Petrie added, “There’s been no negativity about gas prices, interest rates, job loss, any of that. This year the weather in Ontario has been phenomenal. Traffic is higher at our shows and our dealership. Everything at this point looks like 2012 will be a very good year.”
The RV industry has picked up and those who were hesitant to buy an RV in the past have decided now’s the time, according to a report by KEZI TV on the 43rd Annual Oregon RV Show & Sale that ran March 2-5 in Eugene.
Organizers said this year’s edition was a success, not only drawing thousands of people but also generating sales.
“I think the confidence level in the economy is back, I think people are feeling a little better about things, interest rates are terrific so you can really get excellent values,” said Oregon Show Promotions Owner Dave Weinkauf.
That confidence was seen at last weekend’s show. Managers say all eight of their dealers reported sales are up this year compared to last. “Some are up 10% to 15%, and some of them are up 50%,” Weinkauf said.
So why is now the time to buy? Managers say there’s several reasons for that.
“It’s 23% to 59% cheaper for a family of four to go out in an RV than it is to go on other kinds of ways of travel,” Weinkauf said.
“You’re always looking to save money when you go on vacation so if you don’t have to pay for a place to stay it’s always a little nicer,” added Chris Davis, an RVer attending the show.
Weinkauf also says time is a commodity. Many just don’t have time to take long vacations, so instead they’d rather stick close to home. “You can be in a whole different land in a half hour of your home in an RV on a lake next to a river,” he said.
Many out shopping the show said having that “still at home feeling” on vacation is one reason why they’re thinking of buying an RV.
“It’s your home and you’re taking it with you and you have a dog and you can just bring the dog and not have to pay extra for the dog,” said Lori Thompson.
“We thought if we had an RV we could kind of go here and there and take our home with us if you will, temporary home anyway, and kind of enjoy the scenery,” said Ron Cote.
While others say it’s just more reasonable for their situation.
“We kind of got a growing family and we like to camp but I’m a little more of a rough camper and my wife’s not so we’re looking at a trailer,” Davis said.
Many out at the show said they weren’t quite ready to buy just yet, but say it’s always good to go to shows to see from many different dealers what types of RV’s there are to choose from.
To view an accompanying video from KEZI TV click here.
Recreational vehicles are not necessarily getting smaller, but they are getting lighter, according to a report in New Jersey’s The Press of Atlantic City.
John Sulano, finance manager at Driftwood RV Center, pointed to a 3,200-pound, 21-foot-long model on the floor of the Atlantic City Convention Center during last weekend’s Annual Atlantic City RV Show. Ten years ago, a similar model may have weighed 1,000 pounds more, he said. “Weight is always a factor in the trailer business,” he said.
Manufacturers have been building recreational vehicles using aluminum framing instead of wood, and even making interior cabinets with lightweight compressed fiberboard or balsa wood, Sulano said.
“Every year the trailers get bigger and weigh less,” said Bob Burnett, rental manager at Driftwood.
Show Manager Anthony Tedesco said RV shows have had a good year so far with both attendance and at-show purchases, a change from several years ago when the economy had fewer people buying.
Kevin Broom, media relations director for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) said many manufacturers redesigned and innovated during those down years.
“Take a look around and you’ll see light, or ultra-light or super light. What you’re going to see is a lot of RVs that are smaller, lighter, more aerodynamic, more fuel-efficient,” Broom said. “While they’re getting smaller, they’re not really sacrificing living space. They’re using different materials to build.”
Meanwhile, as newer electronics such as flat-screen televisions became popular, they take up less space inside RVs, he said.
“Ten years ago, the tube TV took up a couple feet. Now a flat panel takes up 2 or 3 inches and you can hang it on a wall,” he said.
Lighter materials allow people to tow their RVs with smaller SUVs, he said.
Driftwood, with locations in Dennis Township and Egg Harbor Township, is one of the largest exhibitors at the show. The company typically has six to eight salespeople there, as well as managers, Sulano said.
For the next four days, DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. Mich., will be a village of aluminum and fiberglass motor homes, trailers and recreational vehicles lined with streets of red carpeting.
According to a report in the Grand Rapids Press, the Grand Rapids Camper, Travel and RV Show has some 300 units on the convention center floor. The show opened at 3 p.m. today and will run through Sunday evening.
Inside, visitors can expect to find all the amenities they left behind at home – flat-screen TVs, leather lounge chairs, fire places, coriander counter tops, bathrooms with showers and of course, lots of beds and bunks on which to sleep.
By the time they wheel their units off the floor Sunday night, dealers are hoping many of them will have new owners. Unlike the Michigan International Auto Show last weekend, this show focuses on making a sale.
“This is not just a show, this is actually a sale,” says Bruce Ter Veen, sales manager for General RV Center in Wayland. “This is where we start our season as a dealer body.”
Most of the dealers are hoping this year’s show will bear out their hopes that the economy is on the rebound and consumers can afford to splurge on their families again.
“So far, the shows we’ve been seeing are up 20% to 30%,” said Ter Veen, one of 10 General RV Center dealers in the U.S. “This show is an indicator when the economy starts growing and gaining momentum.”
‘This is the best time to buy because they’re all under one roof,” said Ter Veen has 67 units on the floor, ranging from lightweight trailers designed for towing behind an SUV to the Tiffin Phaeton 40QBH, which has a special show price of $216,995, down from its list price of $275,009.
The Tiffin Phaeton is a 40-foot diesel-powered behemoth that includes 1 ½ baths, a stacked washer/dryer, leather recliners, king-sized bed and a 37-inch television. It features four slideouts to expand its interior space when parked.
While the big units are staples of the industry, the growth in sales are among ultra-light trailers which can be towed by an SUV but are large enough to accommodate an entire family, Ter Veen said. The ultra-lights allow families to camp comfortably without upgrading their everyday transportation, he said.
For consumers who don’t yearn for the open road, there are the “park models” that look more like houses, complete with shutters, fireplaces, and second floor lofts for the kids.
“They’re like a little cabin,” said Show Manager Carolyn Alt. While most of the trailers and RVs are designed for the open road, the park models are towed to campgrounds for the season or in some cases, years.
The Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA) recently released America’s Largest RV Show’s 2012 Show Drawing Kit and the organization reported that space reservations are rolling in.
According to a news release, the deposit deadline to participate in the drawing is April 2 and the actual show drawing will be held May 9 at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pa. The show will run Sept. 10-16.
As the first show to display 2013 products, America’s Largest RV Show is an important event to the RV industry by providing valuable feedback to manufacturers from dealers about their newest products; and because the show is a hybrid, exhibitors get a feel for the consumer market as well.
With over 1,000 units being sold in 2011, the event is a strong indicator for the strength of the RV market. PRVCA continues to strive to improve each year and has reformatted the Industry Day education line-up to include F & I, Service Writer and Marketing clinics from the industry’s top educators. And as an added incentive, PRVCA will award one dealer principal or campground/resort owner a trip for two to the tropics in January 2013.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) recent local RV retail show publicity efforts have resulted in show information and RV lifestyle stories being published in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Kansas City, Mo.; Ft. Myers, Fla.; Allentown, Pa.; Lake Charles, La.; and Tampa, Fla.
According to a press release, more show coverage in the coming weeks is expected in Boston, Jacksonville, Fla., Houston, Minneapolis and Richmond, Va.
RVIA said that coverage has been positive with the focus placed on innovative products as well as the large crowds and strong sales being reported at the shows.
“The reason I think sales were so good this year was the pent-up demand we’ve heard so much about,” said Dave Kelly, marketing director for the Florida RV Trade Association which annually hosts the Florida RV SuperShow at the beginning of January. “People will put off their recreational purchases only for so long. I think we might finally be turning the corner.”
“We had a very exciting event,” said Bart Caple, who heads the Lake Charles, Louisiana RV show. “Attendance was very strong, one of our best shows in years, and attendees were buying RVs. Most of the dealers reported strong sales, better than last year. Overall, the atmosphere was very optimistic.”
Vilma Fraguada, vice president at GS Media & Events, which produces shows throughout the country, added, “Attendance at the spring shows has been strong and filled with qualified and well informed buyers.Dealers have reported successful closings and most have exceeded their sales expectations. Young families are looking at RVing as an affordable way of spending quality time with their children and loved ones. Manufacturers continue to bring innovative upgrades and products that enhance the RV lifestyle.