Residents of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, are firing up sales at local RV dealerships this spring.

Despite notions extra household spending would all but cease in the first and second quarters, sales of trailers and other recreation vehicles are on par with 2008, say Saskatoon businesspeople, according to The Star Phoenix, Saskatoon.

Kelly Lardner, owner of Lardner’s Trailer Sales Ltd., says business so far this year is as busy as last year — the company’s best year in its 42-year history.

“(People) are a little nervous because of all the stuff they’re hearing on the news . . . but there’s a lot of people saying, ‘I’ve still got my job, we’ve been hearing this bad news for over six months now and I’ve still got my job, and the sky hasn’t fallen in, and my neighbor’s not unemployed, and his neighbor’s not unemployed. Everyone has still got their job, maybe we should just carry on with our lives and enjoy ourselves,’ ” Lardner said.

Lardner, who is also president of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association of Saskatchewan, said dealers across the province are doing well. Nationwide, sales are strong and manufacturers are having difficulty keeping up to the pace of orders. At his business, Lardner says customers are buying everything from entry-level trailers to luxury fifth-wheels that run into the $70,000-plus range.

He believes RVs provide an option for families who would like to take a summer vacation but want to stay within a reasonable budget.

“We saw this happen after 9-11. People want to be closer to their family and RVing is a family activity and you’ve got a lot of control on it — where you want to go, when you want to go, if you want to change that holiday or not,” Lardner said. “It’s a family activity and when people get nervous or scared, it seems like it’s good for our business.”

Alana Fontaine, spokesperson for Go RVing Canada, said RV shows across the country this year have had record attendance and sales of RVs are, indeed, doing well. In Saskatchewan alone, she said, Statistics Canada recently reported sales of RVs rose 42.1% between December 2008 and January 2009.

Canadians are becoming increasingly attracted to the vacation style as it often costs much less than other holidays, she said.

“More and more Canadians are realizing the value that RV vacations offer, and in these times when the economy is the way it is, Canadians are still going to want to experience holidays and there’s no better way to do it than an RV,” Fontaine said.

Tom Oakes is experiencing much of the same at his business, TRX RV. So far this year, he said, sales are off by about 10%, a decline he attributes to a drop in clients from Alberta.

“I was pretty nervous here last fall when everything was unfolding,” Oakes said. “How do you really know what you’re going to accomplish six months ahead when you have such unusual economic news all over the place? But it turns out it didn’t really affect us here in Saskatoon.” 

One of the hottest sellers at TRX RV so far this year is the Airstream — the classic “Silver Bullet” trailer that has been around for decades. Oakes said there have been more Airstream sales in the early months of 2009 than all of the model’s annual sales in 2008 and 2007.

As the sun gains strength this spring, Oakes expects business to grow much like it did last year.

“Our traffic has been kind of dependent on the weather. When it’s chilly, it drops right off, when it warms up for a few days, we all of a sudden see good traffic through the doors, and people are making buying decisions,” he said.