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Several dealers who were interviewed recently said the resilience that the RV retail market has shown this fall makes them optimistic about 2002.

Campers Barn of Kingston in Kingston, N.Y., estimates its sales will be up 15% in 2002 in terms of unit volume, said Jim Bracco, vice president and general manager.

“I feel strongly that it will be a strong year next year,” Bracco said. “We’ll increase our floorplan and hire more sales people and service technicians.”

Kingston is 100 miles north of New York City, and because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Campers Barn “did not have a normal September,” Bracco said. “But then, people got over it. We had good traffic until a week ago.”

Mild November weather and low gasoline prices also helped, he added.

Travel trailer, fifth-wheel and Class C motorhome sales were “way up” at Campers Barn this year, said Bracco. The dealership also will open a separate facility for the sales and service of diesel pushers, he said.

Meanwhile, in Fort Myers, Fla., Fred Landry, owner of Landry’s Work’N Play, plans to expand his inventory a minimum of 25% this winter.

“I feel 2002 will take us back to 1999,” which was the RV industry’s most recent cyclical peak, Landry said. “September was a real poor month but our October and November came back with a vengeance. We’ll have a record November and I’ve been in business since 1971.”

Landry’s Work’N Play participated in the Florida RV Trade Association sponsored show Nov. 8-11 in Tampa, and the show did not cannibalize the dealership’s lot traffic, he added.

“I applied for another $2 million on my floorplan but I won’t take a chance on stuff that won’t sell,” Landry said.

At Tom Raper RVs in Richmond, Ind., General Manager Dave Bane said, “We’re very bullish about 2002. The market will be even to up slightly, but there are opportunities in niche markets and among non-typical RVers” which he describes as “outdoor hobbyist types.”

Retail buyers are excited about the new triple slide-out equipped units, Bane said. Many RV enthusiasts are willing to sacrifice some under-floor storage for a third slide-out room, he said.

However, Bane did not want to underestimate the competitive retail environment. “We’ve seen more price competition,” he said. “We are seeing niche and fringe manufacturers dumping product of dubious quality on the market. We’ve also seen marginal dealers trying to move their inventory.”

Those trends, most likely, will continue into next year, Bane said.