With row after row of unsold recreational vehicles in stock, you might think that Dennis Charron, general manager of the Giant Recreation World in Orlando, Fla., would be worried.
He is concerned – but only a little bit, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. Sales of RVs, down nationally 27% this year, have been better than that in Florida, traditionally the nation’s No. 2 RV market behind California, he said.
“Gas prices really didn’t hurt us,” Charron said. “The financing crunch slowed us up a little. But it’s coming back around for us. It’s still a cheap way to travel.”
“The nice part of having an RV is that we can hook up anytime and go,” he said.
Charron’s company also has a rental fleet of about 20 motorhomes, with the largest going for $225 a day, or $1,575 a week, “and we’re almost all booked up,” he said.
“This is still an affordable way to go,” he said. “We’re Americans. We’re going to have our fun no matter what.”
Charron said he is seeing some customers trading larger units in on smaller ones.
“We had quite a bit of that for a while, but we’re seeing less of it,” he said. “But even though some people are downsizing, they aren’t getting out of it.”
And there are those who continue to get bigger motorhomes. Last week Charron delivered one to baseball star Ken Griffey Jr., who traded in his 23-foot motorhome for a 38-footer.
It is a particularly popular size, especially for families – prices start around $150,000, and Griffey added $15,000 in extras to his.
Charron’s father opened the dealership 32 years ago, and in the 20 years he has worked at it, Charron has seen a lot of changes in the industry.
It helps that Florida is a year-round RV market. Even more helpful has been a drop in age of the average owner.
“This used to be a seasonal business,” Charron said. “When the snowbirds hit, we did a lot more. But in the last five or six years, the area market has really opened up. And one of the biggest changes is that younger people are getting into RVing.”
Charron said in the past the average age of his customers was mid- to late 50s, but now it has dropped to the mid-40s.
That said, it still isn’t easy to find buyers willing and able to shell out $300,000 for the 45-foot motor home that Charron has in his inside showroom.