Around 300 people were standing in line this morning (Sept. 10) waiting for the gates to open at the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show on the expansive grounds of the Hersheypark and Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.
And it’s been busy all day, according to a mid-afternoon random check with several manufacturers during the first of five retail days for this major East Coast show hosted by the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA).
Ideal weather conditions brought out large crowds, which at times overwhelmed some of the displays. Some 1,200 to 1,300 units are on display at the show, covering close to 1 million square feet.
“I’m sitting across from the main gate and there’s been a steady stream of people all day,” said Ed Kinney, vice president of sales for Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore.
Kinney and other manufacturers at the show are seeing a good cross-section of people – from young to old – and reports indicated they’re not just shopping but buying. Kinney said he took time to cruise around the show and speak with competitors. “Everyone says they are astounded with the traffic,” he said.
“I’m not hearing any negatives about the market or the economy or hesitation to buy,” said Don Clark, senior vice president of sales at Keystone RV Co., Goshen, Ind. “I’m seeing customers come three and four times with specific questions and needs they want to address, which is a great indication they’re buyers and not just shoppers. You can tell the difference between a looker and someone interested in buying.
“Husbands and wives are carrying brochures and making notes all over the brochures. I was very encouraged.”
Clark said it was much too early to say how the entire show will end up but he did see a lot of “sold” signs on Keystone trailers. He also echoed Kinney’s comments about widespread success at the show.
“The companies I spoke with seem to be upbeat. Comments like, ‘It’s about time,’ ‘Look at the traffic,’ and ‘Isn’t this great,’ were common,” Clark said.
Ron Dickeson, regional sales manager for Elkhart, Ind.-based Heartland RV Co. LLC, noted, “The first day has been absolutely incredible. I haven’t seen anything like this for over a year. There were times today we were overwhelmed with people at our display.”
“People for the most part are in the position they can afford to buy. It isn’t necessarily that they have to wait until they sell their house,” he added.
While speaking with RVBusiness, Dickeson related that a couple was buying a $70,000 Landmark fifth-wheel and paying for it with cash.
Heartland had a good show at Hershey in 2007, he said, but “if today is any indication, we could blow that away pretty easily.”
The Hershey show is a regional event and addresses the Eastern market but it may be taking on a much larger role this year, Clark surmised.
“I had three West Coast dealers (two from California and one from Oregon) call me and ask how the show was going,” he said. “Their view was obviously that the Hershey Show was a leading indicator how the Pomona Show (Oct. 12-21) will be.”
“We don’t think we’re on the road to recovery but it sure feels like we’re breathing some clean air,” Kinney concluded.