High gas prices and a slow economy haven’t stopped Wichita RV in Wichita, Kan., from growing.
The recreation vehicle dealership has opened a west-side lot at 10810 W. Kellogg, west of Maize Road, the Wichita Eagle reported.
Stuart Atherton and Dan Garczynski, Wichita RV general manager and general sales manager, respectively, opened the lot because of anticipated growth and customer demand.
The company previously operated from a single location, at 12828 SW Highway 54.
In the past 18 months Wichita RV has hired seven new employees, bringing its total to 18. And the company recently expanded its service building from three bays to seven, including an enclosed paint booth that allows the company to repaint RVs up to 45 feet long.
“We’re still selling. We’re still doing good,” Garczynski said.
The company’s growth has been deliberate and is recently stimulated by an expansion of its service capabilities, including the addition of the paint booth, Garczynski and Atherton said.
The west-side location will help Wichita RV expand its service business even more, they said, because they are letting their west-side customers drop off their RVs and campers, and then staff shuttles them to the east-side location. West-side customers can also pick up their RVs there once service work is completed.
They said some people don’t want to drive the 21 miles to Wichita RV’s east-side location and will look for alternative places to get service.
“We’re trying to expand not just on the sales, but the service,” Atherton, who also has ownership in the business.
The new location, which shares space with Hino Trucks of Wichita, includes lot space for up to 45 RVs.
Wichita RV currently has 37 units at the west location, ranging in price from $25,000 to $300,000.
The new location also has an 1,800-square-foot parts and accessories store.
Garczynski and Atherton insisted that higher gas prices have not affected sales and that people are still buying RVs.
According to their trade group, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) in Reston, Va., dealers across the country began ordering more RVs starting last year.
RVIA spokesman Kevin Broom said RV shipments were up 46% in 2010, mainly from dealers replenishing inventory.
“What happened in 2008, 2009, they sold off a lot of what they had on hand,” Broom said. “Consumer demand was down.”
In those years, he said credit availability was tough, as were favorable financing terms. That has changed.
The association expects RV shipments to increase another 8.6% in 2011, he said.
As for gas prices, they may have some effect on first-time buyers, Broom said.
But “one of the things we’ve learned is when fuel prices go up, (RV owners) adjust,” he said. “They still go on vacation. They still use their RVs.
“They just go fewer miles.”
A maze of trailers and motorhomes lined the floor of the Sam Fulco Pavilion at the Kansas Coliseum on Wednesday (Jan. 6), signaling the start of the 21st Annual Wichita RV show.
Eight Kansas recreation vehicle dealers from as far away as Dodge City had models on display at the show, which is expected to draw more than 8,000 people by the time it ends Sunday, according to The Wichita Eagle.
Jeff Pritchard, the show’s director, said the event caters to both first-time buyers and those looking to upgrade their RVs. He described it as a show for RV purists. No motorcycles or boats are on display.
The show is the first major event of the year for retailers and gives people a good chance to research and compare models without the pressure or hassle of being on a sales floor, said Stu Atherton, general manager of Wichita RV. Although some sales are made at the show, he said most of his business comes from customers who see something they like and come to his store weeks or months later.
And while the downturn in the economy may make affording an RV, which range in price from $14,000 for a trailer to more than $100,000 for a motor home, out of reach for some, salesman Bill Hawley said sales have held up well over the past year, a trend he expects to continue.
Hawley, who works for Hawleywood RV Ranch in Dodge City, said more people are opting for smaller, lighter vehicles, something that helps save on sticker cost and gas prices.
Jerry Galemore of Hutchinson was at the show looking for an RV smaller than his current model, but it wasn’t for economic reasons.
“I need a shorter one because I got a bigger boat,” he said. His current RV and boat setup is longer than is legally allowed on roads. “I’m way over length,” he said.
Wichitans Dale and Pat Miller were also browsing the nearly 200 models on display Wednesday afternoon. Although they already own an RV, Dale Miller said they like seeing what’s new.
Miller said he and his wife like taking their vehicle to lakes and on vacations around the country. Although traveling by RV seems expensive, he said it’s cheaper and more convenient than staying in hotels and constantly eating at restaurants.
“It’s your own. You can fix your meals, you can sit out at night and barbecue, you can sleep in your own bed and you have your clothes handy,” he said.