TAMPA, Fla. – The first two days of the Tampa Bay Fall RV Show hosted by the Florida RV Trade Association provided traffic that had dealers optimistic for a solid weekend and that optimism turned out to be justifiable.
Just shy of 7,300 consumers made their way through the gates in near-perfect weather over the entire weekend.
This year’s event was held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Florida State Fairgrouonds. Last year’s show attracted nearly 7,000 attendees and that was with Thursday washed out by a hurricane.
Show coordinator Patty Flanigan said Friday, “The show has been fantastic so far. We’ve had excellent weather. We had 1,215 for our opening day which was great. Last year we weren’t open on Thursday because of hurricane Nicole.”
Crowds were even more robust on Friday because of the Veterans Day holiday, Flannigan noted. “I knew Saturday was Veterans Day, but I didn’t realize a lot of businesses were closed today. Our crowd today has been phenomenal.”
She added that several dealer reps had sold units and “things are moving. There’s a plethora of stuff out here,” she said, “all the way from the diesel pusher Class As to the small little pop ups and truck campers so we have something for everybody.”
Overall, dealer reps had good things to say about the show on Friday.
Nick Ryskamp, sales manager for family-owned Gerzeny’s RV World with locations in Nokomis, Lakeland, Bradenton and Port Charlotte, said that while traffic was steady, the was a solid percentage of buyers, or “the right traffic” as he characterized it.
“We actually had a lot of buyers, which is good, and different from some of the shows past,” he said. “It looks like the industry is making a little bit of a recovery, finally.”
Ryskamp said that was largely because of moderation in pricing.
“Prices have come down, so back when the interest rates were low, the prices were much higher,” he said. “That’s hard money. You can kill the interest rate by paying it off early. There’s nothing you can do about hard money.”
He added that the adventure segment has been the hottest for Gerzeny’s. “That’s why we concentrated on that for this show,” he noted as the majority of the 25 or so units on display overland-based travel trailers.
“We went heavy on the adventure because that’s the Millennials. A little bit younger crowd. It’s not just our grandparents anymore,” he said.
Kami Smith, sales specialist for single-location Village RV based in Ocala, Fla., said, “It’s been great. We’ve actually had quite a bit of traffic today and yesterday,” said “Yesterday was really busy and that’s usually rare on the first day of show.”
And while Village was able to write some deals, Smith noted there were a lot of people just looking as well.
“And sometimes people will look on the first couple of days and they’ll come back on the last day and buy.”
Providing the perspective from Blue Compass RV this morning was Jon Ferrando, founder, president and CEO.
“The attendance is up from last year, which was impacted by a hurricane and inclement weather which continued for most of the show, Ferrando said. “Consumers are still shopping and buying relatively the same mix of RVs we are selling at the show from last year which includes a broad mix from our light weight travel trailers to Class A motorhomes.”
Matt Marlatt, sales manager at General RV, Tampa, was encouraged by the turnout and the business his team was writing.
General, with three locations in Florida and 12 more from Pennsylvania to Utah, brought 92 units to the Fall Show in Tampa.
“You know, in this business we always like to compare things to last year, but last year we had the first day of the show knocked out by the hurricane,” Marlatt said, “but it feels good. I’m very optimistic about things right now and this show is supporting my optimism.”
He said although traffic on Thursday and Friday was good, he was looking forward to the weekend.
“You know the majority of the traffic comes Saturday and Sunday, so it really seems like were on pace and honestly, the last few weeks at the store coming into this show, we feel like we’ve had better quality traffic.”
Read that buyers instead of tire kickers.
“I really feel like things are going in the right direction,” he said. “And things can only get better in the future when interest rates at some point start bending and going back the other way.”
Despite higher interest rates, he said, buyers are still out looking because there are “a lot of great new products that are giving people reasons to come out.”
Fort Myers, Fla.-based North Trail RV’s Sales Manager David Jones characterized traffic as excellent.
“We’ve had a lot of good activity throughout the show so far,” he said. “I think with rates being where they are, its been a little slow as far as moving on opportunities,” but he added that there are great opportunities out there for buyers right now.
Jones pointed out that as interest rates have risen, prices have fallen. “It’s definitely a buyer’s market. Absolutely,” he said.
As far as trends, Jones said North Trail, which bills itself as the world’s largest Newmar dealer, caters more to higher end buyers and that, “the big stuff is still moving pretty well and the smaller stuff has slowed down a little bit. That’s what it seems like to me.”