Although unemployment remains stubbornly high, sales of travel trailers and motorhomes have rebounded to some of their strongest levels in six years as consumers feel more confident about their personal wealth.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that in Wisconsin, there were 6,100 travel trailers sold in 2012, the highest amount since 2007, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., a Grand Rapids, Mich., firm that tracks sales in the recreational vehicle and recreational marine industries.
Low interest rates and stable fuel prices have helped boost sales, along with pent-up demand for the products. High unemployment in some parts of the nation is about the only thing holding sales back, said Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys.
“As long as people feel confident in their jobs, and interest rates remain low, they will continue to buy things,” he said.
Leisure-product market trends affect hundreds of Wisconsin businesses and help drive the state’s tourism industry.
A full recovery in motorhome and camper sales will depend on the economy and consumer confidence. But spurred by retiring Baby Boomers and young families buying their first camper trailers, the long-term prospects for the RV industry look good.
Experienced RV enthusiasts, many of them retirees, were among the first to return to the equipment marketplace – if they left at all. They’ve been followed by first-time RV users, many of them under age 40, who are now a little more comfortable with their spending since the recession ended.
The RV industry has always been a leading economic indicator, according to Walworth.
“People watch the industry to see which way it’s going,” he said.
Burlington RV Superstore, in Sturtevant, said it had a 40% sales increase in 2012 from the prior year, and that it expects another 10% sales increase this year.
“We are in a nice growth mode again,” said Burlington President Tim Wegge.
To read the entire article click here.
Wausau, Wis.-based King’s Campers was the top selling motorhome dealer in the state for 2012, according to a press release.
Based on data from Statistical Surveys Inc., it marks the seventh time King’s Campers has been the No. 1 dealer of Class A’s and the third time the company ranked as the top motorhome retailer.
“I know I can speak for each one of our employees when I say that we are once again extremely proud of this honor,” said Sales Manager John Gajewski. “I also know that we will continue to work very hard to provide the best customer service possible at all times. Our customers can rest in the knowledge that being a seven-time winner will not make us lazy, or lax. It will only strengthen our resolve to continue achieving this, and many other honors.”
Family owned and operated since 1990, King’s Campers is a full-service dealership staffing RVIA/RVDA certified technicians and operating 12 service bays year-round.
Wisconsin recreational vehicle dealers are optimistic that this will be a fourth consecutive year of sales growth, after the Great Recession put a dent in their industry — and many others – according to a report by the La Crosse Tribune.
Some said sales still haven’t returned to pre-recession levels, and each said higher fuel prices in the past few years have resulted in RV owners staying closer to home.
Wholesale shipments of RV units by manufacturers rose to 285,749 units in 2012, up 13.2% from 252,407 in 2011, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) said. That was the highest annual total since 2007, when 353,400 units were produced. The association said 257,551 towable units were shipped in 2012, compared with 28,198 motorhomes.
“The industry was able to capitalize on an improving economy and strengthening consumer confidence to post substantial gains in 2012,” RVIA President Richard Coon said. “We anticipate this moderate growth continuing in the coming year.”
The 18-month recession — the longest since the Great Depression — officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.
“Motorhomes got hit the most in the recession,” said Paul Pretasky, co-owner of Pettibone RV. The dealership added new motorhomes to its product line in the past few years “because they’ve started to come back,” Pretasky said. But travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers remain its biggest sellers.
Pettibone RV felt the recession “big time” when it occurred, Pretasky said. But sales have increased in the past three years, he added.
The dealership’s sales peak from February through June, and most people want to have their new RV in time for Memorial Day weekend camping, Pretasky said.
“There’s better traffic this year” into his store, he said. “People seem to be in more of a buying mood.” But with high fuel prices, Pretasky predicts RV owners will continue to camp out closer to home than they did several years ago.
RV sales have increased for the past three years at FMB Trailer Sales in Holmen, owner Dan Howe said.
“We’re still not where we were before the recession,” he said. It probably will take two to three more years to get back to those sales levels, he said.
To read the entire article click here.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is currently soliciting public comment about how the state could enhance outdoor recreation.
As reported by WUVM, Milwaukee Public Radio, several activities are becoming more popular, including camping in recreational vehicles. The state already plans to upgrade electrical service at hundreds of campsites starting this fall, because fewer than 30% have adequate hook-ups.
Several RV dealers say sales of recreational vehicles have also been climbing – a possible sign of economic recovery.
Tim Wegge, owner of Burlington RV, Sturtevant, noted that the larger motorhomes are not huge sellers right now.
“You’ve got a segment of the market, the older retirees, that this economy has scared into just taking what they have and holding it tight. They’ve got a wait and see attitude,” Wegge says.
On the other hand, sales of RV trailers are humming. Wegge says more people are looking for an affordable alternative to pricey hotels.
“We saw a tremendous downturn in 2008 and 2009, but things stabilized in 2010 and 2011,” he said. “And, now we’re seeing some nice growth, particularly in the towable market.”
In Menomonee Falls, Gary Roskopf of Roskopf’s RV has been experiencing the same: increased customer interest in towables.
“This is a mid-size trailer, it’s 28 feet long,” he said. “You might say to me, ‘that looks kind of big,’ but in today’s day and age, this would be mid-sized – queen bed in the front, double bed in the back with a bunk on the top. This will sleep a good seven, eight people in it and pricewise, you’re going to be under $18,000 brand new.”
Roskopf says other popular RVs are those with showers, air conditioning and one or more slide-outs.
“The side of the trailer expands,” he said. “It’s a box area that expands into the trailer for travel and expands out of the trailer when you get to the site. It really has changed this industry.”
Todd Hill and his family from Ixonia are sizing up a unit at Roskopf’s.
“We’ve been camping for many, many years and we’re looking for something that has slideouts on it to add a little extra room in the kids bedroom and then have the couch and dinette and stuff open up in the kitchen so you can walk around through there a little bit more,” Hill says.
Repeat customers – those who trade up – are important to Roskopf. He says some customers intend to park their RVs at a permanent site, while others will tow them to national and state parks.
Wisconsin wants to capitalize on the growing demand for all types of campsites. In addition to adding electric hookups, the DNR’s Dan Schuler says the state recently opened a new campground at Harrington Beach State Park near Milwaukee
“They’re staying closer to home a little bit, I think from an affordability standpoint,” Schulre said. “But, I also think it’s somewhat time constraints. We’re not seeing an uptick in the week long or two week long vacations. But we absolutely have seen an uptick in two to three day stays, particularly in the fall season.”
The DNR estimates there are roughly 18 million potential campers in Wisconsin and adjacent states. If fuel prices remain stable and consumer confidence grows, local RV dealers expect more to opt for towing an RV to their outdoor getaway.
To see an accompanying video of the following story click here.
Like its name, everything seemed quiet at Quietwoods RV Sales and Service in Clayton, Wisc. Until sales manager Rob Kohloff looked out the window.
“I was actually on the phone with a customer – and I apologize for having to hang up on that customer – but I did see one of our units go past my window at about 20 miles an hour with no truck in front of it,” Kohloff told WLUK TV, Green Bay. “At that point I realized the weather was a little worse than I first thought.”
Taking a walk outside, it was evident the weather was much worse. Some of Kohloff’s workers told him they thought they were watching a tornado.
“They actually saw this unit, which is about 11,000 pounds, go straight up in the air, spin and then get slowed back down on the ground and unfortunately hitting another unit,” said Kohloff.
While the damage and first hand accounts seem like a tornado, National Weather Service officials say the Winnebago County damage was the work of straight-line winds.
“As the wind hits the ground and the surrounding area it can swirl and pick large items up and cause quite a bit of damage as we saw there,” said Jeff Last with the National Weather Service.
“It’s a small setback,” said Kohloff. “We’ve had a great summer, we continue to stay open and conduct business as usual – obviously with a little more cleanup.”
For Kohloff, this isn’t his first go around for severe storms. His Kaukauna home narrowly escaped damage from a tornado that tore through the town earlier this year.
“I experienced pretty much the same thing. I was in the same area that was hit and what was going through my mind was what have I done this year,” said Kohloff. “I kind of feel there is a target on me.”
Luckily for Kohloff and his co-workers, the storm only hit the RVs, which are insured. The damage likely could total more than $100,000.
“It’s scary, but nobody was hurt, so that’s the important thing,” said Kohloff.