Regional recreational vehicle dealer Poulsbo RV closed its Ridgefield, Wash., location Friday (April 10), a victim of recessionary slumping sales, according to The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.

About 225 motorhomes and travel trailers are being relocated from the company’s site to Poulsbo’s Chehalis dealership, said Todd Timmermann, general manager of both the Ridgefield and Chehalis operations.

“Due to market conditions, we’re going to consolidate our operation to the smaller Chehalis store,” Timmermann said.

Headquartered in Kent, near Seattle, Poulsbo operates five other sales and service facilities – in Kent, Everett, Auburn, Mount Vernon and Chehalis. Those locations will remain open, despite a 14% decline in overall company sales, Timmermann said.

“The RV industry is usually the first to be hit at the beginning of a recession,” Timmermann said. “That’s because sales are based on discretionary money.”

Poulsbo purchased its nine-acre Ridgefield site in 2000. At peak operation in 2007, the Ridgefield facility employed 65 people and grossed $35 million in annual sales. More recently, about 25 employees were reporting to the Ridgefield site, some of whom will relocate to other company outlets.

Poulsbo has no immediate plans for the site, Timmermann said.

Economic uncertainty, shrinking lines of credit and rising unemployment rates delivered the RV industry one of the worst years on record in 2008. Sellers and manufacturers alike suffered setbacks, which meant bankruptcy filings for several RV makers, Timmermann said.

“Monaco Coach, Fleetwood, Weekend Warrior all filed for Chapter 11 (bankruptcy). It’s been tough on the manufacturing side and on the retail side,” he said.

He added that the pool of interested RV buyers dried up as they faced an increasingly tight credit market. Timmermann said today’s lenders are asking for larger down payments and higher credit scores.

“Zero percent down is a thing of the past. Banks are looking for 15% to 20% down, and that has a big impact,” he said.

Tight credit might also have been a factor in Clark County’s fourth-quarter RV sales downturn as measured by a taxable retail sales data published by the Washington Department of Revenue.

Sales declined by an overall 41.9% percent in the RV, boat and motorcycle dealers category in the three months ending in December in the county which includes Vancouver. Sales dropped from $4.03 million in 2007 to $2.84 million in 2008 during the period.

Despite the sales downturn, Timmermann said he is optimistic RV sales will bounce back when the economy strengthens.

Poulsbo sells new and used units at prices ranging from $11,000 to $500,000.

”RV is a lifestyle and people who RV will continue that lifestyle,” he said.