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.
The words “recreational vehicle” and “motorhome” might not conjure up associations with leading designers, A-list actors or trophy homes but it appears that the cumbersome “lounges on wheels” ridiculed by the style police for decades have come into their own.
In Aesop’s fable the tortoise, handicapped by that lumbering carapace on his back, crossed the line ahead of the sprightly hare. So it is that roving homes and the outdoor lifestyle are in vogue even during the economic downturn, according to the Financial Times.
”We have lots of RV parks where occupancy rates are up 13 to 14%,” says Cheryl Smith, of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), which represents more than 3,700 sites across the U.S. The national increase averages out at nearer 5%.
”We expect that to increase when the winter kicks in and the snowbirds are on the move again,” continues Smith, referring to RV-owning retirees from northern states and Canada who typically head south during the winter.
Smith attributes this upturn to Americans’ bullish spirit of optimism in the toughest of times. “People might not be able to afford to fly or stay in hotels but they’re all remembering that RV in the backyard, dusting it down and taking to the road,” she says.
In so doing, friends and family not only bond with nature but with one another, reckons Smith. For in our high-tech age of multiple distractions, families sometimes need to get away from their main home and turn to a second home, on wheels, in order to reconnect with each other.
“People often come to parks without their cellphones. They make their own entertainment; they cook and eat a meal together, she said. Furthermore, the process of simply “getting there” in an RV is a family adventure that is easily more appealing than the horrors of peak-time airline travel associated with bricks and mortar second homes. Crucially in the U.S., such vehicles are also classed as second homes and are tax deductible.
News of the increased demand at RV parks and campgrounds in most of the U.S. is a welcome boost to RV manufacturers, who have been in the doldrums throughout the recession.
The sales of market leader Winnebago were down almost 80% in 2008 – ironically, the year that the company celebrated its 50th birthday. Not that Winnebago remains the byword for the RV it once was, as company spokesperson Sheila Davis concedes.
“Today it refers to all kinds of recreational vehicle, from motorhomes to travel trailers and pop-up campers,” she says. “In the past 10 years (especially), there’s been a huge growth in active lifestyle interests so both the image of the RV and kinds of vehicles available have changed to reflect this.”
Cultural cachet doesn’t get much better than being acquired by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA). In 2007 it hailed the 1963 Airstream Bambi travel trailer an American design icon.
It became only the seventh automotive design in MoMA’s collection, joining such classics as the Volkswagen Beetle, the Jaguar E-Type and the original Jeep. Suddenly not only was the Airstream, its riveted aluminium design resembling a bomber’s fuselage essentially unchanged since the 1920s, a metaphor for wanderlust, adventure and freedom, it was also chic.
“Design aficionados see Airstreams as cool retro collectables. They use them in new ways, from mobile architecture and fashion statements to guest houses,” says Airstream president Bob Wheeler. Indeed, one fashion designer uses his as a pool house and when fashion festivals come around hooks it to his car and hits the road.
Celebrity “Airstreamers” include actors Tom Hanks, Andy Garcia, Sean Penn, Sandra Bullock, David Duchovny, Brad Pitt and Matthew McConaughey and director Tim Burton. Designer Ralph Lauren owns four. Actress Pamela Anderson added a stripper pole, a vibrating bed, ceiling mirrors and white shag carpeting to hers but most prefer more sophisticated furnishings.
Gone are the days of the Formica kitchenette and spartan amenities. Most upscale RVs, from the Airstream (now also available in Europe) through to the market-leading Winnebago Adventurer, now come with all of the features you would expect in any modern home.
Revamped vehicles are attracting a new generation of “cashmere campers” in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom who crave the gypsy lifestyle but with the luxury and style of a five-star hotel. Moreover, should owners choose to use RV parks, they will find the standard of services and facilities in the US and their equivalents in Britain and Europe have improved greatly. Not only are golf courses, tennis courts, gymnasiums, spas and adventure playgrounds a part of the package but open-air cinemas, theatres and concerts are now de rigueur.
Recent increases in the use of RVs build on a dramatic upturn in the US market earlier this decade, albeit for very sober reasons: the attacks of September 11 2001.
“Between 2001 and 2005 our company doubled in size,” says Wheeler, a rise in demand shared to differing degrees by most manufacturers, including Winnebago. “Americans were reluctant to travel by air plus there was a focus on family values and family activities within the US. This led to a boom in the motorhome industry.”
According to a 2005 University of Michigan study, one in 12 U.S. vehicle-owning households now owns an RV. More than 60% of recreation vehicles are made in Elkhart County, Ind., or “The RV Capital of America”. Earlier this year that label turned into the “job loss capital” when Elkhart County posted America’s largest jobless rate increase, up more than 10%.
“Usually consumers will trade their motorhomes every four to six years and so if 2004 was the peak year, we are hoping that people will be looking to upgrade to a newer model next year,” says Davis of Winnebago, which is based in Iowa. “Certainly consumer confidence is coming back and the market is improving.”
This is partly fuelled by the rise of sports and activity-based pursuits and attendance at countryside competitions which has seen enthusiasts turn to motorhomes as the best way of getting between meets.
“A lot of people have hobbies and will jet ski or sail every weekend,” says Ross Edwards, managing director of Travelworld, which imports European-built RVs into the U.K.
“Most want something big and substantial so that they don’t feel as if they are in a caravan. [They] can attend various meetings all around Europe, towing a couple of motorbikes. Other enthusiasts are older people who sell up and live in them instead of a holiday home or go to the continent and park them on a plot of land while they build their home.”
Then there are the music festivals – from Glastonbury in rainy Somerset, south-west England, to the Burning Man, in the scalding heat of the Arizona desert. Today’s “hippy” is unprepared to forgo his creature comforts and so opts for an RV over a tent.
“The UK industry is worth 6 billion pounds a year, between sales of new and used products and holiday spend,” says Louise Wood of the National Caravan Council. “In all there are about 360,000 non-mobile caravan homes scattered across 2,000-3,000 parks, about 500,000 touring caravans and 164,000 motorhomes.”
Particularly in areas such as the U.K.’s Lake District, where second homes are hard to find and expensive, a caravan holiday home is a good alternative. They are usually situated in the heart of a beauty spot and can earn decent rental income, arranged through the resort, when not in use by the owner. “In a good park, for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom caravan you can earn up to £1,000 a week,” says Wood.
According to Maxine Soghmanian of the Caravan Club, Europe’s largest touring association, which represents more than 1m individuals, the mobile home business in Britain is up 40 per cent this year. With a weak pound and uncertain property market, a lot of baby boomers are taking to the open road rather than sinking their assets into a second home on the Costa del Sol.
“It is increasingly common,” says Soghmanian. “France, Spain, Italy and Portugal are the most popular destinations but a lot are also now heading to Scandinavia and Holland and even Australia and New Zealand, where they will rent motorhomes.”
A yearning for Route 66 and the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On the Road might be U.S. phenomena but wanderlust is by no means uniquely American. It is more than equalled in both Canada and Australia, countries whose scale and diversity lend themselves to prolonged periods of roving.
“Twelve per cent of our members live in their RV full-time and the number is growing,” says John Osborne of the 54,500-member-strong Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA), the country’s largest RV club. “Membership has trebled in the past 10 years, with 700 new members joining each month.”
“Growing numbers of Australians want to fully experience their country,” Osborne says. “The majority also own real estate. Some have sold their home to go on the road full time, after which they intend to settle down in the part of Australia that they find as their special place.”
As an era of conspicuous consumption, decadent trophy homes and one-upmanship is eclipsed by one of environmental concern and family values, the RV and even the humble caravan symbolise a quest for personal fulfilment and discovery. Even President Obama is a fan. “As soon as this convention is over, we are loading up our kids in an RV. We are travelling around to county fairs, eating ice cream and taking our two girls to the swimming pool,” he said during his presidential campaign.
Bob Olson, the top executive of Winnebago Industries Inc. (WGO.N), said on Thursday he is not sure how high motorhome industry production will rebound once the market recovers, but said he is confident the business is nearing a turning point after five years of falling sales.
In an interview with Reuters, Olson, the company’s chairman, chief executive and president, also said he is not happy that one of Winnebago’s chief suppliers, Navistar International Corp (NAV.N), has entered the motorhome business itself by buying Monaco Coach Corp, the RV and trailer maker that filed for bankruptcy in March.
Navistar’s Workhorse Custom Chassis division supplies Winnebago with the platform for its biggest and most profitable motorhomes.
“I’ll tell you right now I don’t like the fact that I’m buying a major component from a competitor,” Olson said.
“They assure us that they are two separate entities. We’re still concerned. There’s no doubt about it.”
Winnebago and other motorhome manufacturers have watched demand for their pricey, gas-guzzling vehicles evaporate as a result of the current economic downturn and related credit crunch.
The industry expects to ship just 14,100 motorhomes this year — the industry’s worst showing in the 38 years data has been collected. That would be down over 50% from the 28,300 motorhomes the industry shipped last year and down over 80% the 71,800 vehicles it shipped in 2004.
Asked what he thought the new normal might be, Olson said he was not sure. But he said that since 1971, the industry has averaged 54,000 to 55,000 vehicle shipments a year.
“Now that’s a far cry from 2004,” he said. “But it’s also a far cry from the 14,000 wholesale rate we’re on now. I’d love it to be back at 55,000.”
Falling dealer inventory levels and a growing order backlog have encouraged Olson to believe the industry may be on the verge of a replenishment cycle.
“I think what’s going to happen is one day these (dealers) are going to wake up and say, you know, ‘Business is starting to improve.’ And they’re going to look out the window and realize they don’t have a lot of units out there that they can show their customers.”
He said the sharp decline in fuel prices over the past year, and the rebound in stock prices, are lifting consumer sentiment and making the job of selling motorhomes — which can easily cost $100,000 — a little easier.
“I think people are starting to recover and feel better,” he said. “That helps. People can look at their stock portfolios and 401(k)s, and they’re feeling better about themselves.”
But he said any replenishment cycle triggered by dealer restocking would be muted because the few remaining wholesale lenders have increased their scrutiny of the business, pressuring dealers to run lean.
“That will temper it somewhat,” he said. “I don’t think (the restocking) is going to be at the pace that we’ve seen in years past.”
Winnebago Industries, Inc. reported a net loss of $78.8 million for the fiscal year ending Aug. 29, $50.2 million of it being recorded in the fourth quarter.
Revenues for the fourth quarter were $59.5 million versus $85.3 million for the same period last year. The company reported an operating loss of $9.2 million for the quarter versus an operating loss of $18.9 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008.
Included in the operating loss for the quarter was a non-cash charge of $855,000 related to the asset impairment of the Hampton, Iowa, fiberglass facility. Net loss for the fourth quarter was $50.2 million versus $12.7 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008. The net loss for the quarter included a non-cash charge of $41.1 million, or $1.41 per diluted share, related to the establishment of a full valuation allowance against its deferred tax assets. Excluding these non-cash charges, the Winnebago’s tax-benefited net loss for the fourth quarter would have been $5.4 million, or 19
cents per diluted share.
The fourth quarter was negatively impacted by lower motorhome deliveries resulting in a reduction in plant utilization. Revenues were also negatively impacted by a continuation of wholesale and retail
product incentives, but benefited from a better mix of Class A diesel products, according to a news release. There was a positive benefit to cost of goods sold, however, from the liquidation of last-in, first-out (LIFO) inventory values due
to a significant reduction of inventory levels. This had the effect of decreasing the gross deficit by $2.9 million.
Revenues for the 52 weeks of fiscal 2009 were $211.5 million versus $604.4 million for the 53 weeks of fiscal 2008. Net loss for fiscal 2009 was $78.8 million versus net income of $2.8 million for 2008.
On a diluted per share basis, the company had a net loss of $2.71 for fiscal 2009, versus earnings of 10 cents for 2008. Excluding non-cash charges, the company’s tax-benefited net loss for fiscal 2009 would have been $37.2 million, or $1.28 per diluted share.
“While fiscal 2009 was one of the most challenging in our 51 year history and in the history of the RV industry, we have taken many necessary steps to preserve adequate liquidity, manage our balance sheet
and costs, and maintain our ability to make investments in products and processes important to our long term growth and profitability,” said Winnebago Industries Chairman, CEO and President Bob Olson. “As an
example, we increased our cash flow by dramatically cutting our inventories by 58% from the end of fiscal 2008 to the end of fiscal 2009.”
“Just as important as managing our balance sheet and costs for today’s market, however, is planning for growth once the economy recovers,” continued Olson. “Research and product development was a top priority,
with over 50% of our lineup new or redesigned for the 2010 model year. From top to bottom, we raised the bar in creating innovative products with exciting floorplans and features with an emphasis on form,
function and styling.”
According to Statistical Surveys, Inc., the Michigan retail reporting service for the RV industry, Winnebago Industries’ gained market share in the combined Class A and C markets with 19.1% for the first eight
months of calendar 2009, compared to 18.5 % for the same period last year.
“We are pleased with our market share gains and believe we have further opportunities to gain share going forward with our innovative new products,” said Olson. “As testament to the appeal of our new motor home
offerings, our sales order backlog was 940 motor homes at Aug. 29, 2009, an increase of approximately 58% compared to the end of fiscal 2008; and an increase of 146% from May 30, the end of our third quarter. We have seen particular strength in the backlog for our Class A gas and diesel products.”
“Nevertheless, the economic environment and the level of retail demand remain uncertain. Additionally, credit availability remains difficult on both the wholesale and retail level,” said Olson. “Floorplan lending
institutions continue to manage dealer inventories very closely with an emphasis on the aging of inventory and the number of times a dealer turns his inventory each year. As a result, dealer inventory declined 54% during fiscal 2009, to 1,694 motor homes as of Aug. 29, 2009. Since retail sales have been much higher than wholesale shipments throughout the past year, we believe dealer inventory is very close to reaching the bottom, and our dealer partners will need to start to replenish soon to satisfy retail demand going forward. The increase in our sales order backlog referenced above may also be a sign that the replenishment process is now beginning.”
Winnebago Industries Inc. (NYSE: WGO), the nation’s top-selling motorhhome manufacturer, will issue an advisory release and host a conference call on Oct. 15, according to a news release.
In compliance with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent guidance regarding “notice-and-access” news releases, the company plans to discontinue issuance of full-text financial news releases via a wire service and will issue only advisory press releases notifying investors when new and material information is available on its website.
Winnebago Industries plans to issue an advisory release before the market opens on Oct.15, notifying the public that a complete and full-text press release discussing the financial results for the company’s fourth quarter fiscal year 2009 ended Aug. 29 will be available no earlier than 7 a.m. (EST) in the “Investor Relations” section of the company’s website at: winnabagoinc.com/investor.html.