Jeff Hirsch, CEO of New Hampshire-based Campers Inn, was bracing for another major storm this morning (Feb. 12) with forecasters again calling for blizzard conditions to roll in over the weekend.
“We’ve had four storms in 10 days, and here comes another one,” said Hirsch, noting that the company operates 10 stores – the bulk in New England with locations along the East Coast including two Florida outlets. “We’re not closed, we’re ready for business. But it’s been a challenge to keep the lot clean so we can help those few customers that do come in.
“RVers aren’t thinking about spring right now. They’re just trying to make it through. It’s been tough.”
The dropoff in customers is just one facet of the impact on day-to-day operations facing dealerships in the region. Spring deliveries, both units coming in from manufacturers or RVs being prepped for shipment, are essentially at a standstill.
“A lot of our business is for destination trailers,” Ted Gulezian, regional director for Campers Inn, told RVBUSINESS.com. “Obviously, the campgrounds are going to have delayed openings, so we have inventory just sitting on our lots. Same thing with units coming in. We certainly don’t want to stop deliveries because the manufacturers will send them somewhere else. We are running out of room and will have to rent some more lots.”
Hirsch added, “We’re also losing that residual business after the shows, which have been good, especially the Boston RV Show in January. From an economic standpoint, we use those shows to stimulate business. Even though January and February are not generally big months, they’re important to our cash flow going forward. It’s already been a long winter. The fact that it’s going to be prolonged even further is frustrating.”
According to Hirsch, it all adds up to a very busy May. “Everything has been delayed and pushed out, which is going to produce a bottleneck in May,” he said. “It’s not only new business, but we’ll also have customers lined up wanting repair or warranty work. The convergence of all those different areas of business will put a lot of stress on our operation. But we’ll make it through, and I can guarantee that we’ll come out roaring in the spring.”
He added, “We have the benefit of operating stores in the mid-Atlantic region that are generating revenue. But our northern stores have taken a hit. We’ve dealt with snow before, but this winter has taken it’s toll not only because of the amount of snow, but the fact that it just never quits.”
Other dealerships in the New England region contacted by RVBUSINESS.com are also feeling the impact of a brutally harsh winter.
• Jay Moran, general manager of Arlington RV Supercenter, which carries a wide variety of motorized and towable units at its East Greenwich, R.I., location, said the snow has definitely had an effect, but not as much as people might expect.
“Surprisingly, we’ve still been able to do some good business on our dry days. But it’s definitely had an impact,” said Moran, who is a third generation owner of the 65-year-old dealership.
He added that they had to reschedule their annual Open House four times. “We were supposed to have an Open House on Jan. 24 and we had to push it back to Jan. 31. Then we had to push it back to Feb. 7 and we had to cancel that one, too.
“Now we’re just going to wait until the snow melts. We’ve got it set for March 7 – hopefully the snow will be gone by then,” he said, adding that for the last several weeks Mondays and Tuesdays have been snow removal days as the staff clears the dealership’s lots.
• When asked whether the snow was affecting business at Hi-Way Campers, a towable dealership for more than 40 years in Plainfield, Conn., Vice President Ken Riley replied, “What business?”
“It’s affected us a lot,” he said. “We’ve had three storms in a row that dumped about 50 inches on us. And this weekend we’re supposed to be getting another one that’s going to add another foot. And it’s supposed to be a wind chill of about 18-below. So, no, we haven’t had a whole lot of traffic coming in.”
Riley said the weather has affected more than just business – it’s cast a shadow on people’s attitudes, too.
“It’s put such a damper on things. Nobody’s thinking spring,” he said. “They’re too busy shoveling snow.”
This weekend is also the Springfield RV, Camping & Outdoors Show at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, Mass. Count Riley among the many exhibiting dealers who are hoping for a good turnout.
“It might be good. I’m sure there are plenty of people who have cabin fever. Since the show is indoors, this would give them a chance to get out of the house for the day. They should be shoveled out by now,” he said.
• Brad Moore, general manager of Bradford RV, a towable dealership with Massachusetts locations in Brockton and Raynham, said the severe weather has been terrible. All the momentum generated at the Boston RV & Camping Expo in late January has been all but brought to a standstill.
“The snow we can handle. The problem is we haven’t had the warmups where some of it would thaw and melt away,” said Moore, whose father, Bob, founded the dealership in 1962.