Camping World Inc. received 47 awards at the recent Winnebago Industries Inc. Dealer Days Event in Las Vegas, including the award for “Top Multi-Location Winnebago Retailer” for 2012.
According to a press release, Camping World also secured its position as the largest Winnebago retailer with over $175 million in Winnebago Industries sales for 2012. Currently Camping World accounts for an estimated 28% of all Winnebago Industries new motorized unit sales.
Camping World was also recognized for receiving 26 Circle of Excellence awards, four Partners in Excellence Awards for top market share in their respective regions, 15 Top Rank Sales Awards, and the New Dealer of the Year Award for Camping World RV of Lake City, Fla.
“We are pleased to again be recognized as Winnebago’s ‘Top Retailer of the Year’ in addition to recently accepting multiple top achievement awards from Winnebago,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World. “We are thrilled that Camping World RV dealers made an important contribution in Winnebago’s business growth and we look forward to continued success with this partnership throughout the ongoing year.”
“Being awarded and recognized by Winnebago in so many categories is exceptional,” said Roger Nuttall, president of Camping World RV Sales. “We value our partnership with Winnebago Industries and remain committed to the highest levels of customer satisfaction in every level of our business.”
Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries Inc. has named Kelli Harms to the position of marketing and sales promotion manager, according to a press release.
In her new position, Harms is responsible for marketing activities including print and online advertising, social media, as well as shows and events.
A 14-year veteran of Winnebago, Harms previously worked as a marketing and public relations specialist where she assisted in advertising, direct mail and media planning duties, as well as public relations functions, such as media and community relations, test drives, product promotion and product placement.
Harms earned her master and bachelor’s from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in communications/public relations. She also holds the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) distinction from the Public Relations Society of America.
Editor’s Note: The following is a blog from New York Times contributor Ezra Dyer offering a first-hand account of his experience driving a Winnebago Via on the family vacation.
After five minutes of wrestling with the electronic parking-meter station, I had my receipts to place beneath the windshield wiper. A roving meter maid would see that I had paid for my spot. And the spot next to it. And the one next to that, thus answering the question, “Where do you park a 25-foot Winnebago Via motor coach?” I’ll take spaces 113 through 115, thanks.
This year, the 2013 Via served as transportation for the annual family trip to the beach. We rented a house, but I figured the Winnebago in the driveway would serve as my oasis of solitude, a respite from the perpetual activity in the house. It also would serve as a sort of mega-sport utility vehicle, toting much of the luggage and assorted detritus to fill the six-bedroom rental.
At first blush, the Via seems unfathomably huge and ponderous; it may have only four seat belts, but its rear luggage compartment is bigger than some hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. Within a couple of hours on the road, however, I was throwing it into corners like the overgrown Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van it was.
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Winnebago Industries Inc. is rejecting an unsolicited $321.5 million takeover bid because the offer lacked details, according to an Associated Press report.
Winnebago said Friday (May 18) that the $11 per share cash offer it received from North Street Capital didn’t appear credible, and the offer was dependent on several conditions.
Winnebago officials say they will respond accordingly to North Street if more details about the offer are provided.
Shares of Winnebago jumped 96 cents, or 11%, to $9.89 after news of the takeover bid became public.
During its fiscal second quarter, Winnebago reported a $912,000 loss as it boosted discounts to increase its sales. But company officials have been optimistic about Winebago’s prospects as the economy continues to improve.
North Street Capital is a Greenwich, Conn.-based privately held global investment management and advisory firm. The company invests in high-growth opportunities including leveraged buyouts and recapitalization transactions.
The Winnebago Itasca Travelers (WIT) Club is now inviting SunnyBrook and Winnebago brand towable product owners to become members, including owners of SunnyBrook products built prior to the acquisition of SunnyBrook Manufacturing by Winnebago Industries Inc.
According to a press release, WIT is a club exclusively for owners of Winnebago Industries’ produced RV’s. Members are eligible to join any number of WIT Club affiliations, including national, state, local or special interest clubs, as well as participate in caravans and rallies held throughout North America.
Members also receive numerous RV travel related benefits such as discounts at hundreds of participating campgrounds, professional trip routing, free membership in Pilot Flying J Travel Plaza RV Real Value Club, as well as a subscription to WIT Club News.
“We are very excited to welcome SunnyBrook and Winnebago Towables owners to join the ranks of more than 11,000 Winnebago Industries motorized product owners who are currently members of the WIT Club,” said WIT Club General Manager Doug Formanek. “Since our acquisition of SunnyBrook, we’ve seen a growing interest in offering WIT membership and benefits to towable product owners with the most enthusiast proponents being our existing members.”
Formanek continued, “As we eagerly welcome SunnyBrook and Winnebago towable owners, we are excited about the energy and potential growth they will bring to WIT along with plenty of fun and new friendships.”
Interested SunnyBrook or Winnebago brand towables owners may contact the Winnebago Itasca Travelers Club at 800-643-4892, or at www.winnebagoind.com/clubs/wit.
The 4th Annual Elkhart County RV Open House has gained another strong national player with the announcement today (July 22) that Iowa-based Winnebago Industries Inc. will show both towable and motorized product Sept 20-22 at a leased slot on County Road 6 on the north side of Elkhart – strategically located on the south side of C.R. 6 between the exhibits of Forest River Inc. and Thor Industries Inc.
“We’ve attained a higher visibility in the Elkhart area with the purchase (in late 2010) of SunnyBrook (SunnyBrook Manufacturing Inc., Middlebury, Ind.),” Winnebago Director of Marketing Chad Reece told RVBUSINESS.com. “So, this year, in correlation with the other events that are going on in Elkhart, we are going to conduct an open house also, and we are going to do it in Elkhart. We’ve got space right on the corner of County Roads 6 & 113 – 53000 Decio Drive — just down the street from the Hall of Fame.”
Elkhart-based Forest River’s exhibits will be located both inside and outside its newly acquired Dynamax Corp. plant to the west of Winnebago’s open house slot, while Jackson Center, Ohio-based Thor will be located to the east in an industrial park on the grounds of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s RV/MH Hall of Fame.
And word is that the Forest River and Thor will be running a shuttle between the two displays this time around.
The significance here for Winnebago, Reece points out, is not only the fact that the Iowa motorhome builder is throwing its hat into the emerging open house, but that it will also be Winnebago’s first full fledged showing of both towable and motorized product since its recent diversification move.
“We’ll have a nice presentation of the SunnyBrook product because we’ve been doing a lot of work revamping that,” said Reece. “And then we’ll also be showing the Winnebago towable product lines. And it will be kind of a first opportunity for the dealer network to see that all at once. And also we’ll be bringing key motorized product out, too. So, it will be a full corporate representation for us of towables and motorized. And that’s kind of exciting for us, too, you know, the first time that we’re kind of bringing the whole family of products together at one setting like that.
“It’s our first event in the area there, and we think it will be a pretty good opportunity to bring all of our dealers in for an open house event.”
Before all is said and done, RVBUSINESS.com has learned, a few other surprise manufacturing participants will be announcing open house plans.
They’ve been through hell, so a little heat and humidity won’t slow the MIL-WITS.
The Mason City (Iowa) Globe Gazette reported that the MIL-WITS are military veterans and owners of Winnebago and Itasca motorhomes, and they’re having their usual big ol’ time this week at the 42nd-annual Winnebago-Itasca Travelers (WIT) grand national rally at Winnebago’s rally grounds in Forest City.
“We love it,” said Jack Fraker of Winter Haven, Fla., a retired Navy veteran who served as the first MIL-WITS president when the club’s charter was approved in 1991. “It’s the biggest and best special interest group in WIT.
“When we play taps at night the mosquitoes think it’s a cattle call,” he said.
The club held its national rally last week in Forest City — playing reveille at daybreak and taps in the evening using CDs and a P.A. system.
Members provided the color guard for the opening ceremony parade, the flag-raising and a military services event at the WIT Rally — and they’ll do the same for the closing ceremonies.
They donated money to Honor Flight Winnebago, which sends World War II veterans to see the iconic military sites in Washington, D.C., and, as usual, assembled a float for last week’s Puckerbrush Days parade in Forest City.
“It’s a festive occasion, the Puckerbrush parade,” said Bill Speer of Milford, Kan., the current MIL-WITS president.
Speer was wounded in Vietnam and had his right arm amputated after the war. He got a prosthesis, stayed on active duty and retired as an Army colonel in 1994.
His club, which includes veterans from the U.S. and Canada, is celebrating its 20th WIT Rally. There are about 40 motor homes involved.
“There’s a tremendous amount of leadership skills and talent in a club like this. What their grade was or was their occupation was is moot,” Speer said.
“Our primary goal is to provide an opportunity for retired and active military members to travel in Winnebago products,” he said, “and see the country they defended.”
Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries Inc. has launched the new 2012 Sunset Creek travel trailer line, according to a press release.
Fred Hershberger, national sales manager of Middlebury, Ind.-based Winnebago Industries Towables, said that the Sunset Creek travel trailer line in the SunnyBrook brand has been redesigned from the ground up and is now in full production.
“We have created three different products within Sunset Creek to provide dealers with a product line that targets the entry-level market in its entirety,” said Hershberger. “Sunset Creek ‘Sport,’ which is priced better than most brands’ entry-level product, offers great floorplans and a much higher-end look. The Sunset Creek floorplans, while offering fantastic prices, also provide built-in comfort features that customers continually inquire about, but up to this point, just didn’t exist.”
A few of these features include: 30” x 40” oversized tubs, 80-inch bunks for taller children and oversized slideouts that include a huge u-shaped dinette and full-size sofa. The Sunset Creek “Classic” is built using aluminum framing on all four walls, floor and roof, and comes standard with a fiberglass exterior.
According to Kevin McMahon, Sunset Creek product manager, “Feedback from dealers that have seen our initial product has been outstanding. Our dealers feel that our exterior look is a home run, our interiors have tremendous ‘wow’ factor and our pricing is right where it needs to be.”
Initially, Sunset Creek Sport is available in eight floor plans while Sunset Creek and Sunset Creek Classic are each available in five floorplans.
Lenny Richards’ RV looks like a rock star ride with its cockpit-like driver’s station, custom-painted exterior and satellite dish on the roof. But rather than parties, this motorhome is made for deeper stuff. The interior walls close. Chairs swivel to face each other.
Here, veterans can have an impromptu talk with a Department of Veterans Affairs’ counselor. Or they might pick up information, the Lewiston, Maine, Sun Journal reported.
“Wherever the vets are at or wherever the vets might be, that’s where we are,” Richards, who works for the Veterans Administration, said. “We are all about outreach and education.”
His hope is to reach somebody who might be enduring the invisible wounds of war: depression or anxiety, addiction or abuse.
He parks, sets up a table and hopes a veteran reads the giant Vet Center letters across the vehicle and wants to know more.
“The most popular question I get is, ‘What does it get for mileage?’” Richards said. He has operated the 38-foot converted Winnebago for two years. “I still don’t know its mileage.”
But the question might lead to more questions. And questions can lead to help.
Across the country, vet centers operate as part of the mental health arm of the VA. The hospitals and clinics deal with veterans’ medical problems. The centers and the RVs, 50 nationwide, specialize in readjustment issues. The vehicles act as a kind of sample for the aid that can be given at the centers.
Through the vehicle, someone might learn the address of one of the vet centers to pass on to a friend. Others might receive immediate help. Richards typically travels with a counselor.
“They can talk to someone right away,” he said.
In 2010, Richards spent virtually all summer on the road. From May until September, he managed to spend a total of three weeks at home with his wife and children.
In the winter, the schedule slows. When it’s not in use, it is housed behind the Maine National Guard Armory on the Alfred Plourde Parkway.
But there continues to be events to attend, such as an upcoming snowmobile gathering where he’ll pull up the coach and turn up the heat.
Gasoline at $4 a gallon one summer, followed by a credit crunch the next, amounted to the worst of both worlds for the RV industry.
After watching nationwide shipments of recreational vehicles drop nearly 33% in 2008 and a little more than 30% in 2009, an industry considered an early indicator of the overall economy has rebounded this year.
Sales have are up about 50% at Coleman’s Country Campers in Springfield, Ill., said co-owner Mike Miles, though he added that the increase is testimony to just how tough it was the last two years, the Springfield State Journal-Register reported.
“Nice campers that are reasonably priced are still selling, but in this economy people are a little more educated and a little thriftier,” said Miles.
Buyers also have become more selective in the middle price range, and “no money down” sales are a thing of the past, he said. Buyers are putting at least 10% down, or even paying cash.
“A couple of years ago, you could have walked in here and purchased a $30,000 or $40,000 RV with no money out of pocket. The bank would have financed the whole thing. But those days are gone,” said Miles.
Jim Anderson just plunked down $225,000 for a Winnebago motorhome — including satellite TV complete with hi-def widescreen panels, “basement” central air, double-pane windows, a bathroom, sleeping area, microwave, oven, combination washer-dryer, refrigerator, the works. One of the TV screens can be viewed from outside.
It’s his third motorhome purchase in a matter of years.
“This is it. The stuff that I wanted is in it,” said Anderson, who agreed that financing is harder than in the past.
Anderson, 64, spends his summers at the Double J Campground on Interstate 55 southeast of Chatham and his winters at a campground in California. He’s what is known as a “full-timer” in the travel industry.
Campgrounds in both states have remained full, despite the economy, Anderson said.
“You’re talking about people with disposable income. They’ve already bought RVs and they want to use them,” said Anderson, who worked for the state of Illinois in Springfield after more than 22 years in the Navy. He retired from the state in 2005.
Campground owners Jerry and Jeri Francis said that, while the economy has hurt RV sales, demand for campsites remains strong.
“We have been totally booked for three or four weeks (for the Fourth of July),” said Jeri Francis, who added that the number of Route 66 travelers has picked up in the Springfield area. The campground is on part of the old route between Chatham and Glenarm.
“We have a lot of foreign visitors who will pick up a rental in Chicago and travel Route 66,” said Jeri Francis.
The couple has gradually cut back its inventory of RVs to one model on the lot, though Jeri Francis said they might rebuild their sales business at some point. A propane sales and service center operates year-round.
“We sold a lot of our inventory. We had two or three contracts (on the remaining model), but bankers have just not been that eager to finance ‘toys,’” said Jerry Francis.
RV business indicators
An annual forecast from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is another indication of just how hard the industry was hit in 2008 and 2009. Nationwide wholesale shipments through April are up more than 93% compared to last year and, at the current pace, should be up nearly 40% for the year.
If the economy cooperates.
“Economic hazards could slow the pace of the recovery, including poor job and income growth, lingering credit constraints and low consumer confidence,” said a University of Michigan forecast for the RVIA.
But the forecast finds some long-term bright spots, including a wave of RV-prone Baby Boomers hitting retirement years, the fact that RV buyers tend to be more credit-worthy and have more disposable income than most consumers, more fuel-efficient motorhomes and a trend toward shorter trips.
“It’s one of the reasons we’re a leading indicator. RV purchases are discretionary and depend on credit availability,” said national association spokesman Kevin Broom.
Broom said spring and early summer are the prime buying seasons for recreational vehicles. Sales are expected to slow to a more sustainable level the rest of the year. May sales already were down slightly from April.
“It’s still a good total. We know we’re not going to keep doing 91% better every month,” said Broom.
Gas prices help
“In 2008, we got a lot of cancellations because of the gas prices. We haven’t heard that too much this year,” said Linda Roller, co-owner with her husband, Stan, of the Springfield KOA campground.
Roller said business is ahead of last year, but the uncertain economy remains a factor in cancellations.
“It’s usually somebody who has lost a job or just can’t afford to travel this year,” said Roller.
A pre-Fourth of July survey by AAA Chicago found relatively stable gasoline prices are a key factor in a 17.1% increase in holiday travel projected this year compared to 2009. But the same survey showed the average trip length, 617 miles, is unchanged and travelers also expect to spend less than the last Fourth of July.
Still, any improvement is good after the last couple of years, said Roller.
“We’re a little ahead of last year. Not tremendously, but we’re ahead. It’s positive,” said Roller.