With summer just around the corner, folks looking for new RVs will find that the Saratoga, Wis., area is practically an RV shopping center, according to the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune.
There are five dealers along Wisconsin highways 73 and 13 south. Instead of competing, the five create a sales environment that benefits dealers and customers alike – and tend to feed each other customers.
“In 2002, Wood County (Wis.) was No. 1 for travel trailers and fifth wheelers,” said Dawn Knuteson, co-owner of Lake Country RV Sales & Service Inc. “We draw so many people from outside the area. They can do a lot of shopping in a little time.”
“People can look at more brands of trailers in one trip,” agreed Bob Krummel, owner of Rapids RV Inc., 8410 Highway 13 S. Krummel recently relocated from a site on Highway 73 to what used to be Wright’s Cap & Camp.
It’s a great convenience for the customer, said Mark Ferkey, president of Greeneway RV Sales and Service, 8220 Highway 13 S.
“With all these dealers in town, it makes it very competitive. So it’s a good price environment for people to buy in.”
A trip to the Saratoga/Wisconsin Rapids area is like attending an RV show in Milwaukee or Madison, said Dave Bonsack, owner of DNL Recreation Inc., 3731 8th St. S.
“People attend those shows to buy their RVs. Sometimes they get a good deal and sometimes they don’t. But they may need service, so there are benefits to buying from dealers they have a relationship with,” Bonsack said.
Though the economy has had some impact on sales, talk of a recession around Ferkey’s place doesn’t go too far. RVs still are driving off the lots on a regular basis.
“What recession is that?” he asked. “Sales are strong. Last year was one of the best years in the industry, nationally. They’re predicting it to be a really good year this year, too, because people are camping instead flying.”
Knuteson said her dealership is having a great year.
“I think people nowadays want to spend more time with their families,” she said. “Once you get over the initial investment, it can be an inexpensive way to take a vacation. And interest rates are low. So I think that’s driving sales, too.”
Henrietta Knutson, owner of Knutson Camping Center, 4621 Highway 73 S., said the area’s numerous lakes also bolster business. “(The lakes) have kept sales strong since we started in the fall of 1962,” she said.
Krummel said he has seen some softening of sales. Though high-end campers aren’t moving, low- to mid-range campers are selling well.
“(Business) could be better,” he said. “But we’re moving trailers and that’s the main thing. Campers are priced anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on what you want. I guess people are looking for an inexpensive way to vacation.”
RVs overall hold their resale value very well, dealers say.
“What’s nice about this area – there’s a big variety of dealers and models to choose from,” Ferkey said. “Most all your manufacturers are represented in Wisconsin Rapids. It’s like an RV shopping mall. And all are within a few miles of each other.”