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Screen-Shot-2015-01-05-at-11.24.24-AM-300x132The Florida RV SuperShow, hosted by the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) and considered a gauge for the industry’s overall strength, opened Wednesday (Jan. 14) with record first-day attendance. The show runs through Sunday at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.

“The crowds were strong and the interest was high. I feel like we got a really good start to the show,” said Tim Sheehan, president and CEO of Lazydays RV in Tampa, adding that most people seemed to be experienced RVers. “They either owned one or had owned one. It reflected the consumer confidence that’s across the country today with the economy, the better employment picture for everybody, the stock market on a five-year run, and where gas prices sit today.”

Sheehan told RVBUSINESS.com he spoke with half a dozen attendees who seemed very educated on what they were looking for at the SuperShow.

“They seemed to be more focused on finding the right RV for them and saw this really as an amazing opportunity to see everything that’s out there that the industry has to offer,” he said. “I talked to more than a few people who said they’d been to a couple of shows in the fall, and they were excited they were seeing more innovations and new floorplans at this show that had just come out in the last 30-60 days.”

Sheehan added that Lazydays has about 330 units on display, and it was like “moving an armada over to the fairgrounds.”

Victor Davis, sales manager for General RV Center in Dover, Fla., told RVBUSINESS.com that the numbers were generally lifted on opening day due to consumers taking advantage of the “Senior Citizen Day” promotion. “Every year we have more bodies than normal,” Davis said, reporting that General RV had good traffic at all six displays and also at its store.

Davis said it was too early to tell whether consumers gravitated toward a particular model or even RV segment, but “come Saturday afternoon then everybody will know. I wouldn’t call yesterday a huge towables day for anybody at the show — it was kind of a mix between towables and motorized — but we’ll see what happens today when we get the real RVers coming in.

“I spent the day yesterday talking with customers and greeting people, not so much working deals like I normally do,” Davis added, noting that this is his 26th year working the Tampa Show. “I can tell you the consumer is upbeat. They’re positive about RVs and the RV industry with all of the new models and the good values being presented at good prices. There were a lot of people looking to trade the old one in.”

Davis reported that the dealer displayed 96 units at the Supershow, representing a “real nice cross section” of the selection carried by General RV Center, the nation’s largest family-owned dealership group with 11 locations in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Utah and Florida. The Dover location opened within the past few months and last week the company relocated its corporate headquarters, as well as retail operations, into a brand new facility in Wixom, Mich.

In a report by the Tampa Bay Tribune, FRVTA Marketing Director Dave Kelly confirmed that the organization is expecting strong attendance throughout the show. (To view the entire Tribune story click here.)

“We had more than 800 RVers come in for the rally,” he said, referring to the annual event that preludes the SuperShow. “Those are good numbers. We expect this to be a really good year.”

Kelly said he expects sales to be up this year thanks to new, innovative products and an improving economy. Industry experts expect RV manufacturers to ship 361,400 units in 2015, a 3.9% increase over last year. The industry has seen five years of growth and insiders, including Kelly, think the trend will continue.

In addition to the latest models, show attendees were drawn to the Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that travels with a minimuseum and artifacts.

“It is really quite moving,” Kelly said. “They did a great job with it and I think we will have crowds coming just for that.”