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The dealers surveyed recently by investment firm A.G. Edwards & Sons are forecasting a 6.1% increase in total RV unit sales during 2002.

The Edwards firm surveyed 45 dealers in nine states during mid-December to gather its findings.

The survey results are not statistically significant but serve “as a gauge of current strength or weakness regarding retail sales,” according to the St. Louis-based firm.

The dealers surveyed “appeared to be comfortable with current inventory levels,” according to the Edwards firm. Twenty-two percent of the dealers surveyed felt their new unit inventories were too high as the fourth quarter of 2001 drew to a close, but that compares with 49% of the dealers surveyed feeling their inventories were too high at the end of the fourth quarter of 2000.

Twenty-two percent of the dealers surveyed also felt their used unit inventories were too high at the end of last year’s fourth quarter.

Retail sales “returned to normal pre-September 11 levels for the most part by the middle of November,” wrote A.G. Edwards Associate Analyst Craig Clark. Dealers reported “an average increase of 0.2% in total RV unit sales during the fourth quarter.”

The fourth quarter of 2001 compares with the weak fourth quarter of 2000, when the dealers surveyed reported their sales fell an average of 15.3%. But still, the recent survey results represent “the first year-over-year increase since the second quarter of 2000,” Clark wrote.

The dealers surveyed believe motorhome sales will increase 6.9% in 2002 while towable RV sales will climb a more modest 3.3% this year. Dealers are expecting a sharper increase in motorhome sales this year because motorhome sales declined more sharply than towable sales in 2000 and 2001, according to Clark.

About two-thirds of the dealers surveyed by the Edwards firm believe their sales, in terms of unit volume, will be higher this year, Clark wrote. Twenty-nine percent of the dealers surveyed believe their 2002 sales will be flat and only 4% anticipate a unit volume decline.

“Overall, our survey dealers feel that 2001 will probably represent the trough for the industry and 2002 will begin a new cycle as long as there are no additional shocks to the U.S. economy,” Clark wrote.