Aerial shot of RVs covering the Florida State Fairgrounds at the Tampa Show

Aerial shot of RVs covering the Florida State Fairgrounds at the Tampa Show

How good was the 32nd Annual Florida RV SuperShow? Consider this: By the time the event entered the final day, the sprawling consumer show held at the Florida State Fairgrounds had already set an attendance record. (To view a slideshow scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com home page).

In fact, each of the first four days set an attendance high compared to past years which, despite a Sunday (Jan. 22) storm that brought rain and wind to the show’s Tampa-based venue, resulted in an overall gate of 70,528 people – a total that eclipsed 2015’s record of 63,264 by 7,264, according to Lance Wilson, president of the host Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA).

“We had the best four days ever and then we had one of the worst days ever. We had 30 mph winds all day and it was raining off and on,” Wilson told RVBUSINESS.com. “But we killed it on Saturday; we had over 20,000 people that day alone. All in all, it was a great show. Everyone seemed really happy and I know there were a lot of sales.”

Indeed, by all accounts, the 2017 Florida RV SuperShow, which serves as a harbinger for the industry’s overall health, was an overwhelming success.

“It was a great show for us. I don’t want to confirm the rumor that our numbers were over 400, but that rumor is out there,” said Ron Fleming, vice president and general manager of Tampa-based mega-dealer Lazydays RV. He noted that Lazydays combines the number of units sold at the show with what was sold back at the dealership since they shuttle customers back and forth in order to view all available inventory.

“It was a record-breaking five days for us; we had a 20% increase in sales over last year’s show,” Fleming continued. “We were very pleased with the traffic. The association did a great job of promoting the show. The exhibitors did a great job; all the displays looked good. The customers were good quality and there were lots of buyers. And the weather held off for us. The SuperShow was exceedingly good for us.”

Likewise, it was a record-setting show for America Choice RV, reported Cody Loughlin, who along with partner Scott Gencarelli is the dealership’s co-owner as well as the son-in-law of dealership founder Mandy Alonso. 

“We sold over 30 DRV Luxury Suites units and more than 80 units total. But the numbers won’t fully bear out until we go through our prospects and get to our residuals. We’ll probably end up with well over 100 units,” Loughlin told RVBUSINESS.com. “We had the best Tampa SuperShow we’ve ever had and we’ve been going to it every year. The crowd was fantastic and sales were fantastic.”

Loughlin noted that during the past year America Choice RV opened a fourth Florida location in The Villages, joining its stores in Bushnell, Zephyr Hills and the flagship in Ocala, which features a 106-site adjoining campground.

“The Florida RV SuperShow is our Super Bowl. This starts off the whole year for us. We look to come in and line ourselves up with deliveries between now and all the way through April. This is a good barometer for how the year is going to go,” Loughlin said.

Matt Gerzeny, vice president of Gerzeny’s RV World said they had “a very successful show again this year. I believe it is an amazing start for 2017 and all indications are it’s going to be another great RV year.” He noted that the dealership will be adding to its Florida locations in Nokomis and Lakeland with stores in Bradenton at the end of January and another in Fort Myers by March 1.

“2016 for us was our best year,” Gerzeny told RVBUSINESS.com. “It was a really good year and every segment did well for us. We haven’t really seen an influx in any particular product category — we’ve seen an influx in everything. We’re seeing younger buyers, and we’re seeing better-credit buyers. What we’re seeing less of, which is a little strange, are trade-ins. What that identifies to us is we’re getting more people who are new to the industry. Or, they’ve sold them on their own, which we hate to hear.”

Denver Beck, owner of Optimum RV in Ocala, Fla., offered similar sentiments, saying his growing dealership enjoyed a 40% increase in business last year and is eyeing a 50% jump in 2017.

“The most exciting thing about that is you can see the consumer is optimistic about the economy. They’re willing to pay more for the product, and they’re willing to finance more. That’s a reflection of consumer confidence,” Beck said. “We’re approaching a point where our shipments are getting higher and higher, but the next step is you’re going to have your customers moving up in coaches. We’ve seen an increase in that just in the last three to four months. That side of our business has probably tripled. The majority of what we have been selling is higher dollar stuff.”

Don Strollo, president and CEO of RV One Superstores, reported that his dealership was up 17% in 2016 having sold almost 8,000 RVs. For 2017, in addition to expecting another bump in business, Strollo said they are building three new facilities, including an Airstream standalone dealership in Tampa that will break ground in 30 days, as well as brand new facilities for its Tampa and Des Moines, Iowa, stores.

Speaking from a very busy Airstream display at the SuperShow, Strollo related the trends he’s seeing are more younger buyers as well as older prospects who are still adamant about RVing along with a high-end market that continues to do well.

“In the last couple years, a lot of people said the high end is going to slow down,” Strollo said. “We are not seeing the high-end business slow down for us at all. That’s probably the biggest surprise of 2016. The high-end business is still there for us. Airstreams and diesels are still selling very well. We feel that shows there is still a lot of strength in the overall RV industry, but also in the high-end business which a lot of people have been nervous about.”

Product Introductions

About 1,600 units, nearly 200 more than last year’s record amount, were on display on the sprawling fairgrounds complex. Other than minor tweaks and a few new floorplans, most manufacturers were content with showcasing product similar to what they offered at last year’s Elkhart RV Open House and National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

Notable exceptions included Tiffin Motorhomes Inc., which introduced the $138,000 (MSRP) Class C Wayfarer on the Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis, and the Villa and Vista from Athens Park Model RVs.

Featuring a 12-foot porch below an “upper deck balcony” accessible via a spiral staircase, the Vista seemingly drew constant lines of lookers during the show. Advertised by Sun Communities for a retail price of $84,900, including standard set-up, skirting and air conditioning, the Vista is a one-bed, one-bath unit that’s 13 feet, 4 inches wide by 48 feet long, including the 12-foot footprint of the two-story deck.

“Vista is new to our Contemporary Cottage series. Sun Communities asked us to design something unique for them so we had our designer, Roberto Kritzer, help them come up with this beauty with that unique upper deck balcony. It’s a 499-square-foot, HUD-coded park model, which allows us to do the spiral staircase in the 12-foot porch. It’s actually a ‘Wind Zone 3’ HUD unit so it can pretty much go anywhere in the state of Florida,” said Dick Grymonprez, director of park model sales, adding that Athens also offers the two-story deck on the Villa, a 399-square-foot ANSII park model.

In addition, the SuperShow featured more than 450 vendor exhibits occupied by parks and campgrounds, parts and accessories suppliers, and a variety of other retailers. One display that was particularly busy was MORryde, which was debuting two new products, the Step Up motorized fifth-wheel entry step and the Sweet Mattress Deck Slide, a motorized system that slides a mattress out from a wall to make it easer to make the bed.

Jack Enfield, MORryde’s sales and marketing manager, said the Step Up “literally folds up in and of itself, so at the push of a button you can extend or retract the steps. And they’re just more stable. The first step up from the ground is a little bit lower and, again, it’s just a very well-engineered high-quality step.”

The Step Up is currently available as an option on some DRV Luxury Suite units; it’s also available for aftermarket installation for about $1,500 (MSRP). While being used by Tiffin and Thor Motor Coach at the OEM level — including a version that also raises the head of the bed — a DIY kit of the Sweet Mattress Deck Slide has also been developed for the aftermarket for about $350.