A recreational vehicle service business in central Florida has increased its slate of repair work while upping its marketing efforts to deal with a shrinking customer base, according to The Reporter.
“We had to reinvent ourselves,” said Rob Cochran, owner of the Camping Connection in Four Corners which he opened in 1996. “We’re trying to be creative and innovative.”
Camping Connection had relied on a concentration of campgrounds in the area to bring in business. But the number of RV parks has been dwindling lately with the pressures of development and growth pushing them out to make room for condominiums and vacation homes.
“We’ve lost seven campgrounds in the last two years,” Cochran said.
That number accounted for nearly a quarter of the 29 campgrounds Cochran said were within 20 miles of his business when it opened. In one case, what once had been a KOA campground on U.S. 192 is now a Sam’s Club super store.
And fewer campgrounds mean fewer people in RVs dropping by Cochran’s store.
“It’s really dropped the store traffic more than it has the road service,” he said.
Besides the store and the service area, Cochran provides towing service and has four trucks that travel throughout the area to service RVs where they break down.
The disappearance of nearby campgrounds has meant Cochran now has to send his trucks out to a widening circle, expanding his service area to a 30-mile radius instead of the 20 miles that used to keep him, his trucks and his service employees busy.
“We also now offer more services,” he said. “We’re getting into RV fields we haven’t done before.”
That includes selling and installing special performance products that can improve handling, improve towing capabilities and make an RV a safer vehicle on the road.
“They are the kind of products we really can only do in house,” he said. “They take specialized training.”
Cochran has also found ways to bring customers to him by offering special incentives, such as a free night at an area campground and shuttle service to area theme parks.
While he is widening his service area, gas prices are high, traffic in the area has increased and road time for his service vehicles has jumped tremendously.
But Cochran looks at all that philosophically as he watches the area around his business change and grow. He sees it as a natural development, one that he foresaw happening years ago. After all, he said, development that resulted from the creation of Disney World had spoked out in other directions and Four Corners was bound to be included.
“I don’t even look at it as a negative,” he said of the growth that has changed his customer base and forced him into altering the way he does business. “I just believe that things change and you have to deal with that.”