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Grand Rapids will host this week what is being billed as the largest RV show in Michigan, according to a report in the Grand Rapids Press.
But with the state economy struggling and manufacturing jobs on the rocks, dealers are finding it difficult to find buyers.
Sales of trailers and motorhomes in West Michigan have plummeted 32% since 2003, according to Grand Rapids-based marketing firm Statistical Surveys Inc. Buyers in the region bought 187 motorhomes in 2003, but purchased just 87 last year.
Dealers are hoping the Grand Rapids show will bode well for the coming year. With more than 300 RVs under one roof, the show is the largest of its kind in the state, said Adam Starr, show manager for Showspan, which is organizing the four-day event.
“We’ve been working closely for many years with key RV dealers in West Michigan,” he said. “They decided that this would be the best way to launch the 2007 RV season.”
Despite sagging sales locally, West Michigan has become a midwestern hub for RV buying. Area dealers say the new year is bringing new hope.
“I think they start getting excited to make plans for their vacation getaways,” said Bruce TerVeen, sales manager for General RV Center of Wayland, which will have 72 RVs on display. “Gas prices have stagnated lately. And people are looking at doing something with their families and going to all the campsites we have here in the state of Michigan.”
After a slow end to the summer last year with high gas prices and a struggling economy, Terry Town Travel Center has had a good start to the year, said owner Tom Selvius.
“I’m very optimistic we’re going to have a good spring,” said Selvius, adding he will have 48 units at the show.
But dealers are aware that this year’s prospects will again be dictated by the economy.
“The problem is, which all of us really see, is that you can promote until you’re blue in the face, but you’re not going to get buyers if the economy isn’t any good,” said Ken Kruh, president of the Grand Rapids Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association and owner of Al’s Trailer Mart.