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Travel trailer retail sales edged up slightly in September while the overall towable market remained flat, according to data from Statistical Surveys Inc.
Tom Walworth, president and general manager of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm, said the month did not reflect the full impact of travel trailers sold at the retail level to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
“Katrina hit in late August and then in early September they were still digging people out,” Walworth said. “We did see a bump toward the end of the month, but I think that was mainly from people who went directly to dealer lots instead of going through FEMA. We’ll start to see a real impact from FEMA in October.”
The federal agency worked with numerous dealers to supply travel trailers for Katrina victims while also contracting directly with several OEMs. September wholesale shipment totals more than doubled, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Walworth indicated he would be “highlighting travel trailers as FEMA units” in subsequent reports. RVIA said it will not differentiate FEMA trailers in shipment totals.
For the month, overall towable registrations were down 0.2% to 22,297 units from 22,332 a year ago while travel trailer sales increased 4.8% from 12,733 units in 2004 to 13,342.
Through the first nine months, towable sales decreased 2.2% with 216,400 units sold compared with 221,222 in 2204. Year-to-date travel trailer sales rose 3% to 127,179 units from 123,435 last year.
Statistical Surveys noted that information was incomplete for Minnesota and Oklahoma did not report registrations. Performances in other towable categories include:
• September fifth-wheel sales fell 6.2% to 6,681 units from 7,120 last year while registrations for the nine months were 4.3% behind 2004 with 63,344 units sold compared with 66,211.
• Camping trailer sales declined 12.4% in September with 1,753 units sold versus 2,001 last year. Year-to-date sales of fold-downs declined 19.1% to 21,752 units from 26,887 a year ago.
• September recreational park trailer sales increased 9% to 521 units from 478 while registrations through September were 12% behind last year with 4,125 units sold compared to 4,689.