The mood at the 39th annual National RV Trade Show definitely was upbeat as dealers, manufacturers and other industry participants felt the worst of the economic downturn, and negative impact on the market of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were over.

However, dealers, by all indications, did not go hog wild in their ordering from the manufacturers during the show, which ended Nov. 29.

Among them was Van Boxtel RV Super-Mart, Green Bay, Wis., which had lowered its inventory by 30% when compared with what it carried during 1999, according to Fred Koehne, owner.

Koehne plans to expand his dealership’s inventory next year, but, as of last week, he had not decided about the amount.

Industrywide, dealer inventories are low, so Koehne said, “If I were a manufacturer, I’d be optimistic.”

Product shortages might even occur during 2002 if the retail market is strong during the first quarter, he added.

But Koehne said he planned to be selective and order only the units with the best retail turn rates. “We’re primarily a Coachmen dealer and we have been for 25 or 30 years, so we aren’t going to jump ship,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tom Stinnett, whose Clarksville, Ind.-based dealership bears his name, said his inventory was too big during 1999 and that his inventory now is 18% to 20% below 1999 levels.

For 2002, Stinnett plans to expand his inventory by 5% to 8% in terms of units. However, the amount of money he will invest in 2002 inventory will about equal his year 2001 investment.

“The biggest change will be in the mix,” said Stinnett, who added that he will stock more towables and lower priced motorhomes in 2002. He believes the highline motorhome market has reached a plateau and will not begin expanding again until the stock market improves.

“We’re seeing some good, wise (wholesale incentive) programs (from the manufacturers) to move inventory,” said Stinnett, who added he did not see “unusual pressure on wholesale prices” at Louisville.

Other dealerships went against the industry trend and expanded during the last two years, mainly because their local competition was weak.

One such dealership is Young’s RV Center in Fremont, Ohio, a Toledo suburb.

“We probably won’t expand our inventory, we’re a big as we’ve ever been,” said Dennis Bork, service manager. “We’ve increased our inventory by 10% since 1999.”

Another example is Dave’s Claremore RV in Claremore, Okla., a Tulsa suburb.

“We’re having a record year,” said David Ward, sales manager. “We opened a new, larger store in March. We surpassed our year 2000 volume in August.

“We moved from a two-acre site to a 19-acre site. We expanded our inventory this year but we actually got caught short (on product) in the summer,” he said.

But for 2002, Ward said, “We probably won’t expand our inventory a huge amount.”