A Texas entrepreneur is finding success in the recreational vehicle retail sector by targeting Baby Boomers and concentrating on the used RV market, according to a report in the San Antonio Express News.
C.H. “Buzz” Roman along with his wife, Hazel, and partner John Pratt opened Roman Holiday Motor Homes in New Braunfels in March 2004.
Before launching the business, Roman had been searching “for what I could do to serve the wave of Baby Boomers,” he said, noting that he had been successful in other business ventures that targeted the Boomer demographic.
Roman, 60, began to focus on selling used RVs when he bought a used coach at wholesale and was surprised at how quickly it sold on the Internet.
Visits to new RV dealers further sparked his enthusiasm. “For the new RV dealers, used seemed to be an afterthought,” he said. “I’d ask to see used and they’d point to the back of the lot.”
On many lots, “the used coaches were dirty and their batteries were dead. They really didn’t want to deal with you, even if you were looking at a $200,000 motorhome.”
Roman thought he could do it better and bounced his ideas off Pratt, who had been an executive in the RV industry for 20 years.
Pratt was enthusiastic and joined the Romans to open Roman Holiday with a $3.5 million investment. The money “is mostly borrowed,” Roman said. “We have a banker who likes us.”
According to Roman, the business sold 46 units totaling $3.2 million in the nine months it was open in 2004, while this year it has sold 80 coaches for a total of $5.3 million.
Roman said his clients, though affluent, “tell me they understand RV depreciation.”
A new RV, Roman said, depreciates more quickly than a new car, “because it’s a thinner market.” RVs can depreciate 30% to 35% in the first few months.
To build their used inventory, Roman and Pratt look for clean, late-model RVs. They do a makeover on each one to make it look and smell new.
“We clean every vent, shampoo the carpets, the furniture, and redo cabinets if we need to,” Pratt said.
Roman’s wife, Hazel, handles marketing, while their daughter, Lee, works with décor, updating RVs with new curtains, bedspreads or even furniture, while a make-ready man and a mechanic ensure that the coach is in good working order.
So far, Roman Holiday has sold almost half of its RVs through the Internet and about a third of its inventory to buyers outside the region.