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The sense of robust optimism for sales gains in 2004 has held steady for the past quarter in all sectors of the RV arena, according to the latest RVBUSINESS.com Industry Poll.
In fact, the outlook of some in the industry appears to have actually improved since RVBUSINESS.com conducted it’s last quarterly state-of-the-market poll – despite some economic challenges facing the RV sector: Almost 88% of those responding by e-mail to the latest survey by the RV industry’s only daily news site still believe the RV sector’s 2004 sales will exceed those of 2003. An identical survey conducted in March showed that 87% of the respondents anticipated sales gains for the year.
Likewise, 56.5% of the almost 300 survey respondents in late June believed that the year will end with gains of 5% or higher compared to 51.4% in the March quarterly poll.
A closer look:
– 11.5% anticipate double-digit growth compared to 10.5% in March
– 45% expect an increase of 5% to 9% compared to 40.9% in March
– 30.1% foresee modest growth of less than 5% vs. 35.4% in March
– 9.5% expect no significant change, up from 9% in March
– 3.9% anticipate a sales decline, down from 4.2% in March
When viewed in perspective with the quarterly outlook poll administered in March, again, the June survey of registered visitors to RVBUSINESS.com highlighted respondents’ steady confidence in the RV market. Indeed, while poll participants cited concerns over the combined influence of gas prices, the upcoming presidential election and the ongoing Iraqi Conflict, they also show steady faith in such positive factors as an influx of RV-ready Baby Boomers, low interest rates and an apparently strong national desire to “get away” that is fueled in large part by the Go RVing campaign.
Among respondents, manufacturers were the most upbeat, with 19.5% of participating manufacturers anticipating that the industry would see gains in double digits. One RV maker even suggested “RVing is a trend everyone wants to be involved with.”
“The perception of the economy is that it is rebounding,” wrote one RV manufacturer. “And people will likely be spending more money.”
“Our sales are up over 24% over last year,” reported a retailer. “We are seeing first-time buyers more than ever.”
“The Baby Boomers are coming; the Baby Boomers are coming,” cautioned an RV dealer, who feared impending federal interest-rate hikes — levied to dampen inflation — might slow down the industry.
Indeed, interest rates were a dominant theme among the responses.
“Interest rates still remain low, making RVs one of the most affordable ways to spend quality time with the family,” said one supplier.
“In spite of negative fuel prices,” one manufacturing executive added, “consumers and dealers are benefiting from the continued low interest rates, making the products more affordable for dealers to stock and retail customer to purchase.”
Not surprisingly, rising fuel prices were top of the mind.
“I believe that towable sales will be double digit, but motorized is down for us,” explained one retailer. “Gas prices are having a negative affect on motorized sales.”
“High gasoline prices will slow business. It always has in the past,” observed a dealer. “As soon as prices start to come down, business will start back up.”
“Fuel prices are up but many young people are discovering what it is to go camping,” wrote an industry website developer.
However, enthusiasm among respondents was tempered with an awareness of political and economic realities. “Thanks to Go RVing, more and more people are coming to this industry in light of all of the world issues,” wrote a supplier. “It is a way to get away from that.”
“Baby Boomers will buy,” an RV park developer added. “Younger age groups will also be more attracted to the industry due to the lower cost of RVs versus the escalating real estate alternatives.”
Some, on the other hand, simply aren’t seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. “I think the election year is a negative,” one supplier commented. “Gas prices are a negative. Iraq is a negative. Our customers are still trying to squeeze in a vacation and need to escape the stress of the day to day world.”