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The problem with today’s folding camping trailers, in the resounding opinions of RVBUSINESS.com’s regular registrants, is that they are too expensive and too far behind the times in terms of design for today’s buyers.
In the latest RVBUSINESS.com Industry Poll, we asked our 8,000 registrants what they felt was behind the continued setbacks foldout manufacturers have experienced in recent years. Indeed, wholesale foldout shipments last year shrank another 4.5% to 34,100 units in a market that was nothing short of gangbusters for other towable products.
And here’s what we found:
* The largest segment of respondents, 36%, feel “changing consumer tastes” are causing the lackluster sales performance, while 30% see it as a general combination of changing tastes and other factors, especially competition from other products.
* Sixty-six percent suggest that manufacturers “reinvent the wheel in terms of product design” in an attempt to keep up with the times and recoup lost market share.
* Seventy-three percent think pop-up makers should make a point of targeting a bare-bones pricing niche of $3,000 to $6,000, while 20% see them competing effectively as well in the $7,000-$10,000 zone.
* Fully 81% of the respondents think foldout makers – rather than trying to compete with more elaborate product types – should “target more of a true, ultra-low priced camping consumer with more stripped-down, low-amenity models.”
“Mass production allows for lesser quality, and fewer trailers will see the 30-year mark like the old Starcraft, Jayco and Lionel products,” one dealer maintains in the essay response part of the survey. “Pay more attention to detail (woodwork, edges, materials, etc).”
“What we have now is still ‘your parents’ old pop-up,” adds another dealer.
“The hybrid market has definitely affected the pop-up market,” a retailing respondent notes. “The pop-up buyer is usually looking for something less expensive to get started in, and they (pop-ups) are now almost as expensive as some of the 21-foot-plus travel trailers.”
“I just feel that the pop-up is a thing of the past,” one supplier maintains. “There are too many new choices for consumers. Look at all the towables that are marketing toward the toy haulers. Our world has changed and our wants/needs have changed.”
In basic agreement, one distributor bluntly declares: “Foldouts are in desperate need of modernization.”
“We should also remember that many people today already own a tow vehicle that will pull more than a foldout, which in turn opens their buying horizon,” offered a manufacturer. “Consumers today want convenience and ease of use, and the folddowns don’t provide this. Lightweight entry level travel trailers do provide this, and with pricing not all that different plus affordable financing…”
“I’m not sure if the tent trailer market can be saved,” another manufacturing responds. “With the new lightweight ‘hard’ side trailers and competitive pricing, the value sell is in the travel trailer. Tent trailers will go the way of the VHS tape in lieu of the DVD.”