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RV dealers estimate motorhome retail sales, in terms of unit volume, were down almost 11% during the third quarter, but they also are beginning to feel the market is improving, according to investment firm A.G. Edwards & Sons.

That conclusion was based upon A.G. Edwards’ survey of 45 randomly selected independent RV dealerships.

The dealers participating in the survey believe total retail sales during the third quarter, in terms of unit volume, will be 1.6% lower than during the third quarter of 1999, A.G. Edwards reports.

They estimate motorhome retail sales will be down an average of 10.9% during the third quarter but they also believe towable sales will be up 2.9% during the July-through-September period, the St. Louis-based investment firms reports.

“On a positive note, dealers do feel that the worst may have passed,” according to the A.G. Edwards report. “The general consensus of the survey participants is that July was the worst month but sales and store traffic have picked up since.”

The dealers surveyed said their new unit inventories were lower during the third quarter than in the second quarter “with the majority indicating that they must see some evidence of a strengthening retail sales environment before they will once again begin to aggressively order new models and increase their inventory,” according to A.G. Edwards.

Meanwhile, dealers also reported they are beginning to see more customers with credit problems which, along with higher interest rates, helps explain why dealer inventories are smaller than they were a year-ago.

Some of the customer credit problems are the result of lenders tightening their standards, A.G. Edwards reported. “They (dealers) stated that many RV purchases that would have been financed over the last year are now being turned down by lending institutions.”