Tiara RV in Elkhart, Ind., kicked off its spring selling season with a successful open house this past weekend.
“We were more than satisfied,” Brian Calhoun, sales manager, told RVBusiness.
The open house drew shoppers from as far away as 200 miles and generated some sales that would not have been made without the event, he said.
“People still perceive, ‘buy close to the manufacturer and save money,'” he said.
Internet sales are a vital part of Tiara’s business, generating approximately 75% of it sales, he added.
The dealership featured 2010 model towables and motorized products by Keystone RV Co., Four Winds International Corp., Forest River Inc., Carriage Inc. and KZRV LP.
He identified Keystone’s Montana and Carriage’s Cameo as the units garnering the most interest, but he also saw interest in motorized RVs and used product such as Keystone’s Springdale.
He said “fulltimer RVers and snowbirds” remain the dealership’s biggest customer base.
Tiara, which was founded in 2002, reported a record sales performance in the first quarter and expects to turn a profit this year.
“There is a buyer out there. There is a market, you just have to tap it,” he said. “As long as the retail consumer is credit worthy, we have had no problem.”
Typical buyers have credit scores of 700 or better, “but bankers look at more factors than just the score. Some lenders still buy the people, he said, “if you have a good record of making payments and your debt to income ratio is not out of whack.”
Calhoun identified Tiara as “a pretty good discounter. But our profit margins have been good. We’re aggressive, especially in this kind of market because everyody is aggressive but there are buyers out there.”
During the winter, sales at Alpin Haus, an RV dealership in Amsterdam, N.Y., were somewhat stagnant, but when April came it was “like a switch went on again,” says President Andy Heck.
Still, Heck said the news this spring is both good and bad, according to The Leader-Herald, Gloversville.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag,” he said, noting Alpin Haus is slowly transitioning into its “true summer season.”
Alpin Haus, which last year was selected as one of the top 50 recreation vehicle dealers in America by RV Business magazine, sells many other types of big ticket items.
“April has been very good for RVs, boats and pools,” Heck said. “It’s actually pacing better than the past. It’s definitely a lot more dollars (being spent).”
Heck said towable vehicles are “going great,” but sales of motorhomes are lagging.
He said he believes people are buying more boats, pools and towable RVs with the intention to stay in the region. But he said sales of motorhomes, in which people tend to travel long distances away from home, aren’t doing as well.
“That still has been challenging,” Heck said. “There’s still a little buyer’s uncertainty.”
He’s hoping that “switch” stays on for a long time.
“People think maybe we’re better off in the economy and things are starting to pick up again, maybe,” Heck said.
Dougie Aguilera, a sales consultant at Brown’s Ford in nearby Johnstown, said the consumer’s shopping habits can be volatile.
“I think it’s like a rollercoaster,” he said.
Aguilera said he believes what triggered the nation’s economic decline wasn’t necessarily an uncertain housing market, but the $4.25 per gallon gas prices last summer.
He said his dealership found then that people didn’t want to purchase the SUVs, pickup and work trucks that are needed for this area.
“People held off and were scared,” he said.
But now that gas prices are about half what they were in 2008, he said things are “picking up” at Brown’s Ford.
“I think people put things on hold,” Aguilera said.
Sales of the four-wheel drive trucks that are so important to the area are on the rise again, he said.
“In the last several months, there’s been a renewed demand,” Aguilera said.
Sales tax revenues in Fulton County — where Amsterdam and Johnstown are located — jumped by about $228,000 for the first quarter of the year from a year ago, so people are apparently starting to spend more money locally on consumer goods. The city of Johnstown, realized a $164,862 increase for the first quarter from the same period a year ago.
RV shipments to retailers were reported at 10,300 units in the February survey of manufacturers compiled by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), an increase of nearly 40% over last month but 63% less than this same month, one year ago.
Shipments of towables totaled 9,600 units, while motorized shipments totaled 700 units. Seasonally adjusted, February’s results represent an annualized total of more than 120,000 units.
While towable RVs improved in February, moving up 45% compared to shipments of these same products one month earlier, motorhome totals were the same. Conventional travel trailers represented 60.3% of this month’s total shipments as compared to 54.1% for all of last year.
In particular, February 2009 shipments, compared with February 2008 shipments were as follows:
- Travel trailer shipments totaled 6,200 units, down 58.1%.
- Fifth-wheel shipments totaled 2,400 units, down 64.7%.
- Folding camping trailer shipments totaled 900 units, down 55.0%.
- Truck camp shipments totaled 100 units, down 80%.
- Class A shipments totaled 300, down 83.3%.
- Class C shipments totaled 400 units, down 73.3%.
- Class B shipments were down 64.6%, with less than 100 units shipped.
January towable retail sales declined 49.2%, according to the latest report from Statistical Surveys Inc.
The results came on top of December’s survey that showed towables declined 39.9%.
According to the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm, in January:
- Travel trailer retail sales decreased 48.1% to 3,496 units.
- Fifth-wheel trailers fell 50.2% to 1,947 units.
- Folding camping trailer sales fell 49.3% to 285 units.
- Recreational park trailer sales fell 60.4% to 111 units.
January was the eighth straight month that retail sales have outpaced wholesale shipments, indicating that RV dealers continue to lower inventories aggressively.
Thor Industries Inc. continued to maintain its market position with 28.2% of the travel trailer market and 40.2% of the fifth-wheel market share. FTCA Inc.’s Coleman Camping Trailers brand held 38.9% of the folding camping trailer market. Chariot Eagle Inc. gained the top spot in recreational trailers with a 15.3% market share.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Statistical Surveys Inc. ranked Camping World Inc., with 77 stores nationwide, the No. 1 dealer of motorhomes, towables and combined towables and motorhomes in the U.S. for calendar year 2008.
The Top 5 dealers in each category, for the most past, were represented by the same companies as 2007 with some changes in ranking. Crestview RV Center in Buda, Texas, was the only newcomer, moving to fifth spot in the trailer group.
The top five retailers in trailers, motorhomes and combined categories for 2008 are:
• Combined trailers and motorhomes: Camping World, Lincolnshire, Ill.; General RV Center, Detroit, Mich.; Lazydays RV Center Inc., Seffner, Fla.; Fun Time RV Sales, Keene, Texas; Giant RV Montclair, Calif.
• Motorhomes: Camping World, Lazydays, General RV, Giant RV, Mike Thompsons RV, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
• Trailers: Camping World, General RV, Fun Time RV, Giant RV, Crestview RV Center.