Recently retired and with his home as good as sold, Canadian Michel Forgeron-Beaudoin is in hot pursuit of the big toy that will recharge his life.
As reported in the Calgary Herald, he wants a large motorhome so he can commute between Canada and Mexico and spend winters listening to waves hit the beach.
“I’m going to have the life of a full-timer,” said Forgeron-Beaudoin, using the moniker enjoyed by those who live year-round in their recreational vehicles.
“I’m just getting started, but so far it’s going very well,” he said while perusing the offerings of Horizon Lussier, one of the largest retailers of recreational vehicles in Eastern Canada.
Forgeron-Beaudoin is among the hordes of Canadians trying to take advantage of a buyers market for big-ticket toys, notably motorhomes and boats. Like many, he is shopping in both Canada and the United States for a gently used bargain.
In the United States, where most of RVs and boats sold in Canada are manufactured, the industry has been hard hit by plummeting sales. The economic downturn and rising prices for gas and food have chilled the desire for discretionary and luxury goods.
While anecdotal accounts and early statistical readings indicate that Canadian RV and boat retailers haven’t been pulverized like their U.S. counterparts, used RVs and boats are swamping the North American market, driving down prices across the board and delighting first-time buyers, in particular Baby Boomers such as Forgeron-Beaudoin.
Even the high price of gas hasn’t stopped the trend. “We won’t be eating out,” Forgeron-Beaudoin shrugged.
The Calgary Herald reported that Horizon Lussier, which gets its new stock directly from U.S. manufacturers, is having a far better year than most of its American competitors, according to Bisson.
“At this point, we are ahead of 2007 (sales) by 10%,” he said.
Neither Horizon Lussier nor other privately held RV and boat dealers – which all claimed to have higher overall sales than 2006 – would provide detailed figures.
It is possible that individual Canadian retailers are having a profitable year, noted Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich. He said a lot depends on the mix of products on offer.
His view was enthusiastically shared by the director of the association of Quebec RV dealers.
“The (Quebec) market has not been broken,” Danielle Godbout said. Hardest hit are sales of trailers that have to be hauled by trucks, in part because people are moving away from having trucks or large SUVs, she said.
With the end of July in sight, all RV retailers are anxious to lower their inventory of new and used stock.
At Horizon Lussier, Bisson nudged a visitor toward a class A motorhome, which provide RV makers and retailers with their fattest profit margins.
People who buy high-end RVs aren’t too concerned about soaring fuel prices, Bisson and others in the industry said. The budget-conscious do less touring and stay longer in one place, industry spokespeople said.
Like cars, RVs and boats depreciate as they leave the lot. But unlike luxury RVs, high-end boats are eligible for mortgages, giving them some of the advantages – and disadvantages – of real estate.
In the U.S., which has been walloped by a credit crisis, both the housing and boat markets are awash with resale properties. Low prices signal buying opportunities in both markets, according to some observers.
“The value of the Canadian dollar and low interest rates will enable you to get into the (boat) market much faster than you might have expected,” Yves Paquette, general manager of the Quebec Maritime Association, said.
“It’s a buyers’ market, more so than it has been in years,” said Ian Macintosh, owner of Macintosh Boat Brokerage.
According to the Calgary Herald, the hardest hurt in this new configuration are Canadians who bought two or three years ago when prices were high and the Canadian dollar was still relatively low, said Macintosh, who does business in Canada and the United States.
“They want most of their money back but that is just not going to happen,” he said.