As RV companies rev up for next week’s Elkhart County RV Open House, Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI) President Tom Walworth and Scott Stropkai, national RV sales manager for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company, are offering an upbeat outlook for the industry’s overall health – a trend that is poised to carry through to 2017.
“This year we are slated to do 405,000 wholesale shipments and next year we’re slated to do 411,000, and I don’t see anything that’s going to prevent us from reaching those totals,” Walworth said.
And, based on key indicators, Walworth and Stropkai maintain that dealers should be “bullish on inventory” as they descend on the Open House to peruse, and purchase, new product, effectively setting the table for next year’s selling season.
RVB: So, in your assessment, the health of the industry is strong despite this being an election year?
Tom: The market will slow down as far as rate of growth going into the fall because of the presidential election, but year-to date numbers will remain above last year’s numbers and we will hit 405,000.
The dealers may be concerned with less traffic, or maybe they’re not seeing the same group that they had earlier in the year. I think that that’s okay. That’s what they should be experiencing in an election year. The dealers should continue to remain bullish on inventory.
Another thing that’s going to come up – and I don’t think anybody is looking at it because it’s that far down the road – but it’s been very warm here in the Midwest this summer. That means Lake Michigan is warm and cold air this winter over that warm water usually means snow. We may lose some shipping days due to weather this year. I’m not a meteorologist; it’s just a gut feeling.
RVB: Taking a look at motorized segments, is there anything that jumps out at you?
Scott: Generally speaking, Class B’s are doing well – they’re up over 20% in Canada and 10% in the U.S. Class C’s, even if you take out rentals, are also doing well. Class A’s are sluggish – and I hate to use the word sluggish because they’re still up, but they’re certainly not as much as the other segments.
Tom: I think the B’s are real, the C’s are inflated because of rentals, and A’s are real as well.
RVB: How about towables?
Tom: Travel trailers continue to lead the market. Fold-downs are soft. Fifth-wheels are up, but they’re up probably the least of all segments. As far as fifth-wheels, it may be the case that people are going to buy the bigger stuff later in the year and it may reflect stronger at that point.
RVB: Are you noticing any trends in the travel trailer segment?
Tom: If you look at price points, the travel trailer price points are moving up because people want stuff in their units. It’s not just price increases from the manufacturers.
Scott: As far as year-to-date travel trailer retail sales through July, 2016, the $20,001-$25,000 segment, which has 23.85% of the market, had a unit volume growth of 15.71%. While the $15,001-$20,000 segment, which has 20.81% of the market, went down 0.41%.
Tom: I think one thing that should be noted is dealers should really be reacting to local markets. Don’t look at national markets. They should have a very good understanding of what their market is before they come to the Open House.
I was just down in Florida last weekend and we talked about market slowing down a little bit because of the election. The rate of growth in the national market is less than what the Florida market is. The Florida market is actually having better growth than the national market. That’s why I say dealers should really understand their local market because what they’re seeing nationally may be completely different than their local market.
RVB: Anything else you’re seeing that you’d care to relate?
Scott: The one thing I’d point out that is good for the whole industry is California is really starting to bubble up. It’s similar to what Tom talked about with Florida. The towable market in California is up 19.13% and, this is important to note, the motorized non-rental market in California is up 14.46%.
Tom: You have stories like that all over the country that’s why the dealers really should be aware of their markets. I guess that the biggest takeaway: If the dealers understand their markets they can come in and buy for their market.