While year-over-year wholesale shipments dropped over the final quarter in 2018, new retail registrations closed out the year with an all-time high of 489,440 units — an increase of 3.57% over 2017, which, at the time, was the best year on record.
Scott Stropkai, president of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Statistical Surveys Inc., the RV industry’s leading provider of market data, told RVBUSINESS.com that those retail figures ought to be welcome news for an industry that is attracting much consternation as of late.
“Everybody’s concerned because they’re seeing that wholesale shipments have been on the decline. Well, we’ve forgotten how fast we were growing from January through April. It was unsustainable,” Stropkai said. “If we just look at retail, we can see we’re doing just fine.”
Noting that the retail data is submitted from all 50 states as well as Canada, Stropkai said that while year-over-year retail figures for September, October, November and December last year were down modestly, each month still represented the second-best total ever in terms of new retail registrations.
“So, the retail market is great,” Stropkai said. “And, basically, as long as retail holds, the wholesale will be fine. It’s as simple as that. And based on all the data that we get from the states and manufacturers and dealers and what not, it appears as if retail is going to be just fine.”
Stropkai added that he was attending the RV Dealers Convention & Expo last November when last year’s September retail numbers came out and they were down about 8% year-over-year.
“At one point during the show I checked my phone and I had like 30 messages,” he continued. “Every one of them was from a financial company asking, ‘Scott, what’s going on? Is the industry dying?’ I remember thinking at the time I knew we were going to be down, but I didn’t think it’d be this much of a panic.
“Well, I looked into the data, and it turned out September 2018 was the second-best September on record. And then October 2018 was the second-best October on record. And then November 2018 was the second-best November on record. And now December is the second-best December on record,” he said.
Stropkai responded to those messages — as well as all the calls he fields from financial analysts asking for any insight into the RV industry’s performance — with a similar message.
“I tell them all the same thing: The market is up 3.6% overall year-to-date,” he said. “That’s on top of last year’s best retail market in history — at least that we’ve tracked — and September, October, November and December were all the second-best months on record. Things aren’t falling apart. They’re like, ‘Oh, okay.’ Once you give them that fact, they get it, and then they just go on their way.”