Representatives of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) said they have seen an uptick in traffic during this year’s early show season.
“We’ve seen bigger crowds and more enthusiasm at shows recently,” said Lesa Colvin, show director for FRVTA.
The organization is expecting that trend to continue as it opened the Jacksonville RV Supershow today (March 5). The Jacksonville Daily Record reported that the event, which runs through Monday, will feature eight area dealers and 20 vendors.
David Drake of Dick Gore’s RV World in Jacksonville is looking to turn some sales.
“People think we are desperate right now, but we planned for this and we are in a good position right now,” said Drake. “We had some skinny sales halfway through 2007 when we saw the market taking a downturn and we reduced inventory, so we are in a good position right now.”
The economy and cautious consumers aren’t the biggest problem Drake sees with the RV market.
“It’s the banks that received the bail-out money from the stimulus package,” said Drake. “They received the money, but they aren’t making it available for loans.”
The effects of a “soft” market is being felt throughout the industry. Monaco Coach Corp., a former supplier for local dealers Dick Gore and Suncoast RV, is down to 150 workers from 2,000 a year ago.
Despite the bad signs within the industry, Drake is optimistic about the future because of the traffic he sees.
“People are still coming in,” said Drake. “The desire is still out there. People are still buying.”
And it’s just not one demographic or type of RV that is driving sales, according to Scott Manson, of Camping World RV Sales.
“We are seeing all kinds of people looking at everything from pop-ups to motor coaches,” said Manson.
One item both dealers haven’t been hearing too much about is the tax incentive available for RV purchases through the recent federal economic stimulus bill.
“It really hasn’t affected sales,” said Manson. “People are looking more at prices than the tax break they’d get.”
Individuals who earn less than $125,000 and families that earn less than $250,000 per year can deduct the sales tax paid on the first $49,500 of the purchase price.
Dave Kelly, marketing director for FRVTA, hopes that the incentives and weather are enough to bring a big crowd out to the RV show this weekend.
“The deals are just incredible right now. It’s a buyers market,” said Kelly. “We also moved the date back into March this year with the hope of catching some nice weather and it looks like that just might happen.”
With six shows under his belt during the current show season, which runs from about Thanksgiving to Easter, Kelly has been impressed by the attendance numbers.
“We have seen a steady increase in attendance at each show,” said Kelly. “Now whether or not that turns in to sales, I don’t know. But at least there is a lot of interest.”