A strong product offering, six freeway locations, attractive signage and a focus on customer service helped Montclair, Calif.-based Giant RV become the nation’s highest volume RV retailer in 2005, according to dealership founder Bob Barouti.
Giant RV, which operates six locations in Southern California, sold 4,932 new RVs last year, more than any retailer in the country, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.
“I’m very fortunate,” said Barouti, crediting his employees with helping grow his 22-year-old business into the nation’s largest RV dealership. “We have 600 people, all dedicated employees, and they care about the company.”
The fact that Giant RV’s employees also care about their customers, he maintained, is borne out by the fact that the dealership chain’s Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) scores are 25% above the national average, an achievement he attributes to constant sales training. That includes seminars presented by Paul Cummings of World Wide Enterprise Inc., and frequent visits to factories to ensure that employees fully understand the products they’re selling.
Barouti said the dealership’s high-profile locations also factored into last year’s success. Giant has operations in Montclair, Irvine, Colton, Corona, Murrieta and Palm Desert, all featuring high-tech electric signage along major freeways. “We spend $350,000 to $450,000 on each sign,” he said.
As much as Giant RV relies on freeway visibility, however, the company’s growing Internet presence has also boosted sales.
“We do see a very strong pattern of first-time buyers and a big increase in traffic to our website,” said Mellanie Ingle, Giant RV’s vice president of corporate affairs.
Ultimately, Giant RV’s growth reflects the management style of Barouti, 60, who runs the company as a family operation with his son, Frankie, 31, serving as sales manager for all six retail stores, and daughter Natalie, 28, working in the corporate office in Montclair.
Barouti himself spent 15 years in the auto business, first as a salesman and later as the owner of Upland Auto Center from 1978 to 1984, before founding Giant RV in 1984. And he feels his previous experience selling Cadillacs was very helpful because he learned early on how to provide excellent customer service to a demanding clientele.
And while RV industry analysts, such as Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan, predict a modest slowdown in RV shipments this year, Barouti remains upbeat both about the RV business in general and about the Southern California market in particular.
“The RV market is going to grow,” he said, “and it’s going to get better than what it is.”
Barouti, meanwhile, is mapping plans for continued expansion. The company plans to demolish its Murrieta building and replace it with a new and larger facility during the next 12 months, Ingle reports.
Giant RV also plans to relocate its Palm Desert location to a new and larger facility in Indio within the next 18 months and is actively scouting out additional locations in other Southern California locations, including Orange County. “Southern California is the hottest market right now,” Barouti said.