The move of PleasureLand RV Centers Inc.’s St. Cloud, Minn., flagship store and headquarters from downtown to a 28-acre site four miles southeast on I-94 wasn’t far in terms of distance.
Its impact on the way PleasureLand does business, however, took the 31-year-old dealership in a new direction, with increased emphasis on service and aftermarket parts and accessory sales.
“We have given it a different, upscale look – more like Marshal Fields (a Midwestern department store company) than a typical RV dealership,” said President Dan Pearson, whose parents, Vern and Rea Pearson, founded the dealership in 1971.
More than 2,000 people toured the St. Cloud store the Saturday of its grand opening week, April 8-13, an event which PleasureLand also observed at its stores in Fargo, N.D., and Anoka, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb.
“Between the three stores, we sold 76 units during the week,” Pearson said. “At the St. Cloud store, we served 1,600 bratwursts on Saturday. We just got run over.”
The new 54,000-square-foot St. Cloud facility more than doubled PleasureLand’s space, and allowed Pearson to establish an indoor showroom, which the store previously lacked.
“We were landlocked on a 7 1/2-acre parcel,” Pearson said. “Now we have 17 acres that are under blacktop. The store is much more consumer friendly and oriented toward service. With the growth of the RV business, we just needed more service facilities.”
The new facility includes a 30,000-square-foot service department with 22 45-foot bays in addition to body repair and detail centers.
Under the same roof, an 8,000-square-foot retail parts department –- expanded from 3,000 square feet –- is designed to project a department store feel, and is stocked with 100,000 items.
“And we will expand further,” Pearson said, adding that plans call for his store to become a warranty center for Workhorse, Ford and Volkswagen chassis.
“We want to become a one-stop shop for our customers,” he said. “We are making a considerable commitment to keep parts available and to train our service technicians.”
To staff the new facilities, Pearson hired seven full-time workers in the service and parts departments, and expects to add two or three more. The company now employs 87 people at its three stores.
The opening of the new dealership, which stocks Winnebago, Thor, Coachmen, Monaco and Trail-Lite motorhomes and Fleetwood, Keystone, Starcraft, Sun Valley, Nu Wa and Skyline travel trailers and fifth-wheels, coincides with a recent increase in business.
“We had a modest decline last year, but ever since November, we’ve had significant increases each month –- some in the double digits,” Pearson said, adding that companywide sales last year exceeded $40 million.
In addition to focusing more on accessories and service, he said PleasureLand faces challenges that go beyond expansion.
“Frankly, right now I think our biggest battle is going to be maintaining inventories so that we have something to sell to our customers,” Pearson said. “There are many things operating in the RV industry’s favor right now. Manufacturers have not been able to gear up as quickly as they need to for what we are seeing in demand.”