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The largest chain of wholly owned RV dealerships in the 50-year history of the RV business, the newly renamed FreedomRoads LLC network, should surpass $1 billion dollars in annual sales in the near future — only a year after its formation.
And it doesn’t sound as if the senior management and regional presidents of Lincolnshire, Ill.-based FreedomRoads, previously known as Holiday Holdings Co. LLC, are ready to rest on their laurels, based on comments delivered by FreedomRoads President Marcus Lemonis to about 200 FreedomRoads personnel who gathered Sunday and Monday (May 23-24) at Chicago’s Westin O’Hare hotel.
Lemonis told RVBUSINESS.com the FreedomRoads alliance’s 34 stores and 1,100 employees currently account for about $989 million in annualized sales. And FreedomRoads, wholly backed by Affinity Group Holdings Inc. (AGI) Chairman Stephen Adams, had tendered letters of intent to purchase four more dealerships. If any of those offers be accepted, FreedomRoads would quickly surpass the billion-dollar mark.
“We are going to grow our business,” Lemonis told the assembled FreedomRoads personnel, including seven regional presidents seated in the front row. “We are going to be in 25 more markets in the next 24 months. A year ago, people questioned the fact that we would be at a billion dollars in sales in one year. We are now within sight of a billion dollars. We do 25,000 units a year. The next competitor does about 7,000, maybe 8,000 units a year. So, 25,000 is a big number. That number needs to be closer to 50,000. (But) we will not grow our business, we will not buy businesses, we will not open stores if the group in the front row doesn’t buy in on it. You have my word.”
Those current regional presidents, all of whom joined Lemonis on stage at one point in the Sunday presentation, included Craig Jensen, Blaine Jensen RV Centers, Kaysville, Utah; Randy Thompson, Crystal Valley RV, Island Lake, Ill.; Al Binford, Emerald Coast RV Center, Gulf Breeze/Pensacola, Fla.; Kent Lester, Holiday Kamper Company of Columbia, Columbia, S.C.; Mark Meyer, Meyer’s RV Centers, Caledonia, N.Y.; John Sirpilla, Sirpilla RV Centers, Akron, Ohio; and Mike Stier, Stier’s RV Sales, Bakersfield, Calif.
In Chicago, Lemonis layed out more detailed plans regarding the company’s efforts to rename itself and more aggressively brand its stores. He emphasized that the new name, FreedomRoads LLC, is not window dressing, but a complete and legal change of identity at both the corporate and financial levels. In other words, the Holiday Holdings name has been laid to rest, as FreedomRoads attempts to create a new, more retail-oriented identity, name, logo, website and advertising for the sake of its employees and customers.
Although all stores will use the new logo, he stressed, each regional president may decide to what extent he wishes to use the FreedomRoads name in signage, most of which is to be made over the next 90 days.
In any event, signage is being done in such a way as to retain the dealership’s original local and regional name above that of the national brand. One example would be Crystal Valley RV, a FreedomRoads Company.
Helping FreedomRoads project its new image is Pinnacle Advertising & Marketing Group, Schaumburg, Ill., and public relations agency Beacon Communications, of Chicago.
As mentioned in the June issue of RV Business, a national “Win A New RV” contest was launched by FreedomRoads. The registered entrants are being routed through a main (winanewrv.com) website that collects names and sends consumers to the site of a FreedomRoads store in their area. The first drawing for the monthly contest will be held June 30.
FreedomRoads also plans to launch its own website (freedomroads.com) in June and establish dominant advertising positions on various Internet search engines, including Yahoo, Google, AOL and AGI’s RV.Net.
“When you type in the word RV,” said Lemonis, “you are going to see us. We are going to dominate the websites.”
Continuity, meanwhile, was one of the key themes at the May meeting – preserving the hard-working, entrepreneurial legacies of each firm involved in the national retail buyup, while embracing rapid change.
“When we talk about who we are, rather than saying we are a large consolidator or big company, we want to be described as a dynamic national network of well-established, local and regional dealerships who have united to benefit our customers, employees, suppliers and the RV industry,” said Lemonis. “The key words for all of us are ‘local’ and ‘regional’ and embracing the fact that the local and regional piece has got to remain constant. We cannot and will not change that theory.”
RV Business and RVBUSINESS.com are units of Affinity Group Inc., which, like FreedomRoads LLC, is owned by Stephen Adams.
In videotaped comments at the Chicago meeting, FreedomRoads Chairman Adams told attendees he saw nothing but growth for U.S. RV retailers, who should benefit from the fact that 350,000 Boomers are maturing to 55 years of age – a key period for RV ownership – every month.
“In 12 months,” he said, “there are four and a half million opportunities for us. That’s going to continue for the next 10 years. We are sitting in the catbird seat for all the demographics that are in our favor, for all the people who are now getting back to basics and having fun with their families. We are right there. I feel confident that the business that we are in is one of the best we can be in.”