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RVB_GE_LogoThe vast majority of North American RV dealerships — 94.8%  – were profitable in 2014, according to a nonscientific “2015 RVB/GE Dealer Survey” of RV retailers co-sponsored in February by RVBusiness magazine and GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance (CDF).

The survey, designed to provide a look back at 2014 and a speculative glance forward at 2015, showed that of those profitable dealers responding, a total of 23% posted growth of more than 20% while 29.7% reported gains of between 10% and 15% while another 21.6% experienced hikes of up to 5%.

“Of course, these results come as no real surprise to most industry observers inasmuch as the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) year-end reports indicated that total wholesale shipments to retailers of all RVs last year reached an eight-year high of 356,735 units,” noted RVB Publisher Sherman Goldenberg.

“However, the first-ever RVB/GE Dealer Survey tends to give us a little clearer picture as to the nature and extent of the recent upsurge,” he added, pointing out that 62.7% of profitable dealers surveyed posted their “greatest incremental gains” in new RV sales. Dealers also registered solid improvement in F&I (41.3%), service (41.3%), used sales (40%) and parts and accessories (33%).

Looking ahead, the survey indicated, a substantial majority of those 77 responding dealers — 81.8% — are anticipating a good year in 2015 when combining the 67.5% who are expecting a “better” 2015 with the 14.3% who are looking for a “much better” business environment this year.

Consequently, in one of the survey’s more interesting twists, an impressive 44.6% are planning to expand their operations this year “either organically or by acquisition.” And 75% are likely to add staff in 2015, especially in service and parts.

“This optimistic outlook is consistent with everything we’re hearing around the industry from the first quarter of 2015,” stated GE CDF RV Group President Tim Hyland. “With shipments up almost 12% in January, 2015 has started out well with traffic and sales reports from U.S. and Canada showing strong results.”

Among the top-line survey highlights:

“¢ Nearly 24% of the responding retailers expect a change of ownership at their stores within the next five years.

“¢ Roughly a third (35.5%) say they have a succession plan in place while another third (35.5%) have “somewhat” of a succession plan in hand and the rest (29%) have no plans for handing their dealerships over to the next generation.

“¢ More than half (55.3%) are not “content with the current state of RV industry trade shows,” while the rest (44.7%) are OK with the status quo.

“¢ A majority (56.6%) report that Internet sales “contribute significantly” to their annual revenues while 36.8% don’t garner an appreciable amount of trade from the World Wide Web and 6.6% do no virtual business.

Check out the March/April issue of RVBusiness for more survey details.