Lazy Days RV SuperCenter and its founder, Don Wallace, were recently profiled in Forbes Magazine, tracing the company’s growth from a fledgling operation hoping to sell a couple units a month to a “gargantuan” dealership moving 2.5 vehicles “each and every hour.”
Depicted as “part Wal-mart, part country club,” Forbes reported that the Seffner, Fla,-based megaretailer netted $25 million last year on $756 million in revenues, distinguishing Lazy Days as the nation’s largest single-site dealership.
“Wallace and his squadron of 160 salespeople are able to turn a massive inventory of new and used RVs a blistering eight times a year in dollar terms – three times the industry average,” the article stated.
After stalling in 1999 and 2000, Lazy Days’ sales have since grown at a 16% clip. At that rate the company should qualify in two years for Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies.
In addition to rising sales, the dealership has evolved into an all-in-one RV resort, attracting and retaining customers with an array of services and amenities that include a 1,200-vehicle show lot, 230 service bays and a 300-site RV campground.
Forbes said “the pièce de résistance” is the company’s Crown Club, a 17,000-square-foot, British West Indies style clubhouse built in December 2003 that caters to Lazy Days’ high-end clientele. Membership is reserved for buyers who “shelled out at least $250,000” for motorhomes.
This summer, Lazy Days added a new type of customer – displaced Floridians rendered homeless by the assembly line of hurricanes that ravaged the state.
Forbes reported that insurance companies have leased 600 travel trailers from Lazy Days on behalf of storm victims.
Forbes also detailed the sales process at Lazy Days. According to the magazine, sales reps start each day at 8 a.m. with one hour of mandatory sales training. The lessons drive home subtle techniques such as using the word “opportunity” rather than “deal.”
With each first-time customer, Lazy Days salespeople conduct a lengthy interview, jotting notes, hoping to narrow the search to four or five models before touring the lot. On average, the whole process chews up five or six hours.
Forbes said salespeople earn 17% to 21% of the gross profit from the sale and an average rep makes $80,000 a year, plus benefits. The best pull in three times the average.
But the company’s strong suit is service after the sale. Forbes reported that Lazy Days’ service backlog is two to eight weeks, depending on the season. To improve on that, the company is spending $4 million this year on renovations, in part to add to the staff of 21 service managers who oversee this “margin-fattening” side of the business.
The company’s growth and success have translated into financial gains for Wallace. Forbes said he cashed out a hefty chunk in 1999, when Lazy Days’ employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) bought a majority of the company, then valued at $170 million. His take: an estimated $130 million.
This spring his 700 employees got in on the action when Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill (BRS), a New York private-equity firm, bought out the ESOP and other shareholders for $217 million. Wallace kept a 10% stake.
Any chance of a public offering? “The fundamentals of this industry are strong,” says Thomas Baldwin, a BRS managing director. “We’re not looking for the door.”