California retailer Dan Gamel spent $2 million developing software that he says could help change the way recreational vehicle dealers and others sell and manage their inventory, according to a report by the Fresno Bee.
Gamel announced last summer he was liquidating his inventory and closing his stores, but ended up changing the way he does business. He slashed his inventory by two-thirds, cut his work force 64%, cut the number of dealerships he operates in half and switched manufacturers, signing an exclusive deal with Coachmen.
Gamel had left some wiggle room after his liquidation announcement, saying he was planning for the worst and hoping for the best. “We’re trying to figure out the right model for the market,” he said recently.
He said he thinks he may have found it through software he spent years promoting and perfecting his operation. The software allows customers to enter a Coachmen dealership online, look at the company’s various offerings, make a purchase, secure a loan, reserve a campground and perform other functions.
Coachmen dealers can buy or sell from one website, which keeps inventory and personnel costs down. “They don’t have to stock $20 million worth of inventory,” Gamel said. “They can stock a couple million and sell from Coachmen’s site.”
Gamel, in fact, now only owns about $1 million worth of inventory at each of his four California stores compared with $10 million before. That also means fewer employees are required, which cuts costs even further.
“If you are a dealer in Oklahoma and signed up, we’ll get your deals financed. It keeps my employees employed, is more efficient for the dealer in Oklahoma and keeps the customer comfortable,” Gamel said.
Gamel said he thinks he can sell the software to other retailers, including boat, motorcycle and auto dealers.
Gamel also is working on his newest project: mall storefronts with entrances that resemble the front of an RV. Customers sit in recreational vehicle furniture while they shop online.
He’s talked about the concept for years and hopes to debut his first one next year. It won’t be long, he said, before physical dealerships will be a thing of the past.