Jeff Swenson, show manager at Washington State’s 27th annual Tacoma RV Sale, sits inside an office in a back corridor of the Tacoma Dome.
As reported by the News-Tribune, Tacoma, it’s opening day, Wednesday (Jan. 7), and it’s raining, really raining.
“We like rain to bring people in, but we don’t know if we like that much rain,” Swenson says.
The crowds – the largest number of buyers, the families, the recreational vehicle retirees and vacationers, the bulk of an expected 6,000 guests – aren’t expected until Saturday. On Wednesday morning, only a handful of attendees wander the aisles.
It’s a different show than in years past. It’s smaller, with fewer dealers renting space to display their towables and vehicles. It’s smaller too because O’Loughlin Trade Shows, the event’s organizer, has not rented the Dome Exhibition Hall as it did in previous years.
And, for the first time, organizers have allowed dealers to show used RVs.
“There’s a lot of 2008 inventory in the market,” Swenson says. “Dealers have dropped their prices, they’re offering rebates and incentives. They call it ‘bailout prices.’ Everybody’s sitting on ’07s and ’08s, so they don’t reorder new inventory. They’re just trying to get rid of it so the factories can start producing again.”
Instead of motorized RVs, dealers are offering more “towables,” Swenson says. These are the less expensive, and these days the more salable products.
“You need to have a higher credit score, a higher down payment,” he says. “Not as many people qualify for loans as there used to be.”
In a bleak economy, when it really rains, business changes.
“We talk to people who are renting their RVs, consigning them to have the dealers sell them. People have large payments, or they are upside-down,” Swenson says.
The annual Dome sale “is smaller than it’s been,” he says. “Some dealers decided not to do the show. Some have gone out of business. Some dropped locations. In the last four months, 12 dealers are out of business in Oregon and Washington. This is a new era, a new economy.”
There’s also a sunnier side to all of this.
“I think the educated consumer can come and work with a dealer and get the RV of their dreams,” Swenson says. “There’s never been a better deal. Some of the prices are so good, you might look back at it as an investment. Something you couldn’t afford two years ago – you can get it for a lot less.”