Alberta RV Show logoThe Central Alberta RV Show, Feb. 20-22 at Westerner Park in Red Deer, was the last of four consumer RV shows in the region, including the Calgary Expo RV & Sale (Jan. 28-31), Edmonton RV Expo & Sale (Feb. 11-14) and the Red Deer RV Show (Feb. 13-16).

Similar to the previous three events, dealers said the Central Alberta show featured decent sales despite a dip in attendance. Dealers attributed the dropoff, in part, to the region’s reliance on the oil and gas industries, which have experienced a downturn.

The lack of attendance didn’t correlate to lower sales, said Colin Parada, general sales manager of Edwards RV in Rocky Mountain House, which is about an hour west of Red Deer.

“The people who were at the show were there to buy,” Parada said, adding that some attendees even told him they anticipated not having to work as much this year because of the economy, so they might as well go RVing.

While there were some buyers getting their first RV, most were looking at their second or even third purchase. “They were all upgrading. They had their unit that was five or 10 years old, so they knew what they wanted and what they wanted was something a little nicer,” Parada explained, saying most of the 11 units they sold at the show were travel trailers between 26 and 32 feet long.

Despite the region’s economic outlook, Parada expect Edwards RV to have another good year largely due to the product lines being in sync with the area’s outdoors enthusiasts. Edwards RV sells travel trailers and fifth-wheels by La Grande, Ore.-based Outdoors RV Manufacturing including Black Rock, Creek Side, Timber Ridge, Glacier Peak, Black Stone and Wind River. Outdoors RV units are built for the Pacific Northwest and popular with people who love the outdoors, Parada said.

“I can’t see why we’re not going to at least match what we did last year, even with what’s going on in the energy sector,” he said.

Brad Cummerford, sales manager at Uncle Ben’s RV Centre in Reed Deer, said he’s expecting a good year for the full-line dealership as well, in part because they sold twice as many units at this year’s Central Alberta show than last year.

“It was a good show, the traffic was really good,” he said, adding that people were buying a “little bit of everything.”

Keddy Gamble, general sales manager at Olds RV Inc., which is about 45 minutes south of Red Deer, said it was a “pretty good show” for the dealership, which retails a full line of towables built by La Grande, Ore.-based Northwood Manufacturing.

“We did about the same as last year. We didn’t feel the oil business affected it as much as we thought it would,” Gamble said, adding mid- to high-priced units were popular among buyers, who ranged from young families to older empty nesters.

Al Ryz, chief operating officer for Western RV Country, a full-line dealership with 12 locations in western Canada, said it was a “soft” show that had more lookers than buyers. He thought a lot of that had to do with consumer confidence waning due to the economy. But he also said he expects that won’t deter the dealership from enjoying a good year.

“The market might be down a little bit, but it won’t be anything tragic,” he said. “Come April or May, people will have cabin fever and they’ll be looking to go camping again. And that numbness from the media constantly bombarding them with negative news will have worn off, too. They’ll realize they still have to live their life.”