Attendance was pegged at about 7,500 people, which is about the norm, according to organizers of the 30th Annual Richmond Camping RV Expo, held Feb. 13-15 at the Richmond Raceway Complex in Richmond, Va.
Unseasonably cold weather probably limited attendance, reported Dave Body, senior show manager with GS Media & Events, a division of Good Sam Enterprises LLC, which produced the event.
“Even though attendance was 7,500, sales were good. If I had a choice, I’d pick sales,” Body said. “The public was upbeat and they were more serious about buying than they usually are.”
Jeff Runels, vice president of sales for Keystone RV Co., a division of Thor Industries Inc., said he was happily surprised at the turnout, especially given the weather.
“The weekend before it was 76 degrees, but the weekend of the show it was 20, so I wasn’t sure how many people would come out, especially since the show is actually in two buildings and part of it is outside,” Runels said. “But on Saturday, the parking lot was packed and it was hard to even find a parking spot. It was really crowded inside, too. You could hardly get inside the units there was so many people.
“By Saturday afternoon people were really buying,” he continued. “Consumer confidence was much higher than I was expecting and dealers were retailing a lot of units – and not just our product but from all the manufacturers. We seemed to be doing well with our entry-level products, our stick-and-tins.”
Shelby Walsh, who owns Hayden’s RV Sales of Richmond with her husband, Mark, said the show had “good vibes.” They saw a lot of new faces, sales were up and they were still closing deals the week following the show.
“We saw lot of people in their late 30’s and early 40’s,” she said. “They had their children and were determined to go RVing instead of staying in a hotel room. We also saw a lot of older people who might have started with a bunkhouse, then went to a couples trailer, and were now looking at a bunkhouse again for their grandchildren.”
Many people were “aggressive buyers” who already arranged financing, Walsh said, adding that a couple of new products they carry, the XLR toy hauler and the Sierra fifth-wheel, both by Forest River Inc., turned some heads. “We wrote up a few of them,” she said.
John Patterson, president of Southern RV in Richmond, said it was a “good show, with good attendance and good interest.”
The dealership brought 32 towable units, and Patterson said the Solitude and Reflection fifth-wheels by Grand Design RV seemed to draw the most attention from attendees. “People just appreciated that they offered the most bang for their buck,” he said.
Besides the frigid temperatures, a Monday night storm dumped six inches of snow across the region. Patterson said he and several other dealers had already moved their units out of the facility and back to their lots, but the weather has affected traffic at the dealership all this week.
“It’s been a little bit slow,” he said. “So it’s been a lot of phone calls and e-mails, just to make sure people are still interested.”
Layne Rowland, president of American Family RV, a full-line dealership in Chesapeake, is limited in what he can bring to display at the show since his dealership is two hours away and closer dealers have priority. “I’m a little bit out of my turf,” he pointed out.
But he participates in the Richmond show because of the residual sales throughout the year. “We had a gentleman come in already this week who bought a motorhome he saw at the show,” Rowland said.
“Richmond is growing in reputation as the biggest show in Virginia. It’s not a Hershey or a Tampa or a Pomona, but it’s a good show with good traffic and good buyer response,” Rowland added.
About 80% of their sales were travel trailers, he added, and the remaining 20% were split between fifth-wheels and Class A motorhomes. He thought he would have sold Class C motorhomes as well if he’d been able to bring some.
“Richmond is set up differently because even though there’s a lot of space, it’s split up in two buildings,” Rowland explained. “There’s one main building with one large dealer set up in it. Then people have to walk across a frigid parking lot – where there were some outside units set up – to the other building.”
Colby Dorman, general manager of Safford RV, a 45-year-old dealership in Thornburg that sells a wide variety of motorized and towables, said Richmond was a “tough” show, especially when compared to the Washington Camping RV Expo last month in Chantilly, Va.
“That was an amazing show. We sold three diesel pushers, 10 gas Class A’s, a couple of Class C’s and four or five Airstreams. It was the best show we ever had,” Dorman said. “At Richmond we didn’t sell quite as many. It was a real good mix of people, but there were a lot of lookers and very few buyers.”
Other Virginia dealers at the show included Coastal RV in Carrollton; Dixie RV Superstore in Newport News; Gloucester RV in Hayes; McGeorge’s Rolling Hills RV Super Center in Ashland; Reines RV Center in Manassas; and Scenic View RV in West Point.