Robert Jensen figures that sales of recreational vehicles will tell you a lot about the state of the economy: “We lead in and out of recession.”
And the Sportsmen’s Vacation and RV Show at the South Towne Expo Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, is whispering to him that families are spending and credit is flowing once more, according to the Deseret News.
It’s not a flood, mind you. But the credit well’s no longer dry, either.
“In my 30 years, yesterday was the best-ever first day of an RV show in terms of qualified buyers,” Jensen, of General RV Center in Draper, said on Friday (Feb. 19). “Banks are loosening up. And they know that people will (keep up payments) because they want to protect their RVs.”
While the crowd size is about the same as last year, he said, “more people are actually buying.”
“More motivated” is how Shane Kramer of Motor Sportsland in Murray described the shoppers he was seeing. And he believes the recession has played a big role in that. The rough economy has led people to vacation closer to home. Throw in the combination of more credit unions stepping in to provide financing, money in general becoming more available and the RV manufacturers creating lighter, more fuel-efficient rigs and it’s a winner for someone who wants an RV, he said. You can go into the mountains for a nice vacation for the whole family for the equivalent of a single plane ticket.
That doesn’t mean it’s boom town at the show, Kramer noted. He estimated that last year’s show was down about 40% from pre-recession attendance. And it’s still down. But it is looking better.
“I see a lot of optimism,” said Jay Jensen of Sierra RV in Sunset. “Consumer confidence is back.” And while he said credit is still a little sluggish, RVs are moving. He said at a national manufacturer’s show — where dealers go to select the models they want to carry — expectations were for a big bump in business for 2010. And that about describes his expectations.
The last year ended well for his business, he said, with sales and new hires and the opportunity to snag some great deals on pre-owned RVs.
As for what’s selling, Jay Jensen said younger families are going after smaller units, while older shoppers are drawn to motorhomes and bigger fifth-wheels. Robert Jensen has seen great interest in 25- to 32-foot RVs in the $15,000-to-$30,000 price range. And he also noted that manufacturers are introducing new models this year, not just trying to clear inventory. So they’re apparently feeling optimistic, too, he said.
The show also drew browsers like Clyde and Laris Nichols of Farmington. He’s a woodworker, searching for ideas on ways to improve some cabinets he doesn’t love in their 27-foot RV.
They don’t get out in the RV as much as they’d like, he said, but this is the year they’re hoping to go farther — and stay longer.
It’s also the year that Ryan and Renee Woolf of Syracuse hope to add a solar power generation system to their three-year-old fifth-wheel RV.
She noted that the prices have dropped from what they were when they bought their RV. “You can get bigger and nicer for less than we paid,” she said.
The show ended Sunday.