The 6th Annual Knoxville Smoky Mountain RV Show, held Jan. 9-11 at the Sevierville Convention Center in Sevierville, Tenn., was “off the charts” according to organizers, who reported preshow website traffic was up 47%, attendance was up 37% and sales were “probably up 100%.”
The Knoxville show was “phenomenal,” summed up the show’s manager, Rob Lynch of Fairfield, Ohio-based Odyssey Management Services Inc. Lynch, whose grandfather founded the consumer show management company, has been managing and promoting consumer shows for 30 years, including seven RV shows this year.
“I was just telling my wife last night, all year long starting in the middle of last year and into this year, we haven’t seen numbers like this since 2005-2006-2007,” he said. “Web traffic for this weekend’s Cincinnati-Dayton show is up 87%. With trends like this, I predict the RV industry will be very, very successful over the next 24 months.”
Lynch added that the attendance in Knoxville was a welcome mix of demographics. “Where in the last few years we saw a disappearance of the family, last weekend we saw a dramatic increase in families at the show with their children, along with the full-timers and veteran RVers,” he said.
Leland Waggoner, second-generation owner of Chilhowee RV Center just outside Knoxville, hadn’t yet heard the attendance figures when he talked with RVBUSINESS.com, but he said the show “seemed” like it had a large crowd, perhaps because the the event consolidated from two exhibit halls down to one.
“There were a lot of people walking and looking, but not many were getting inside and going through the RVs,” he added.
Exhibit space also was consolidated. Waggoner, whose dealership carries a wide range of towable and motorized RVs, said they brought 36 units to display this year, down from 55 a year ago. Despite this, Waggoner thought his dealership probably sold about 25% more units than they did at the 2014 show.
“Shows are so hard to judge,” he explained. “I know some dealers will sell 50-60 units at the shows. We don’t do numbers like that. None of us dealers at this show will do those numbers.”
Waggoner is the second-generation owner of Chilhowee RV Center, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Chilhowee RV Center was founded by Waggoner’s father, Fred Waggoner, and Leland started working there when he was 14 years old. “It’s the only job I’ve ever had,” Waggoner chuckled.
He added that 2014 was a “pretty fair year” for business, and he expects this year to be even better. Low- to mid-priced towables, especially fifth-wheels, are most popular, he said. High-end towables and motorized units don’t fare as well because they don’t have the snowbird clientele that other markets have.
“We have great brands, we’ve been here a long time and we like to think that we do things the right way,” Waggoner summed up.
Other dealers at the show included Camping World of Knoxville; Choo Choo RV of Hixson, Tenn.; Buddy Gregg RVs & Motor Homes of Knoxville; Northgate RV Sales in Alcoa, Tenn. and Ringgold, Ga.; RV For Less in Knoxville; A & L RV Sales in Christiana, Tenn.; Tennessee RV Sales & Service of Knoxville and Day Brothers RV in London, Ky.