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Investment firm A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. is concerned that excess dealer inventories could accumulate later this year if the retail market does not rebound as much as many dealers believe.

The St. Louis-based stock brokerage based its opinion upon a survey of 45 randomly selected dealers who were questioned during December.

The A.G. Edwards firm is worried because retail sales fell-off more sharply than was expected during the fourth quarter of 2000, according to Mark B. Johnson, investment analyst.

The dealers surveyed by A.G. Edwards believed retail sales of towables declined 13.6%, in terms of unit volume, when the fourth quarter of 2000 is compared with the same portion of 1999, and they believed fourth quarter motorhome sales were down 16.3%.

Consequently, 22 of the 45 dealers surveyed felt their new unit inventories were too high and 17 believed their used unit inventories were too high.

And dealers may be overly optimistic about this year’s retail market, according to A.G. Edwards. The dealers surveyed estimated that motorhome sales would increase 15.8% and towable sales would climb 11.6% when 2001 is compared with 2000.

The dealers surveyed believed the increases would primarily occur during the second half of this year.

But if the retail market does not rebound as much as the dealers hope, “then inventory levels could reach very unhealthy levels,” Johnson wrote. “This could cause a drastic reduction in order rates that would cause wholesale shipments to further lag behind retail sales.”