Although the RV industry begins 2009 faced with sales and financing challenges confronting retailers around the country, early sales results from several recent RV shows have proven promising and given rise to a sense of optimism among exhibitors and show producers.
“Going into our first shows of 2009, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Tom Gaither, senior vice president of Affinity Events., which owns and operates recreation-focused consumer shows throughout North America. “I’ve been in the industry 20 years and, with all that is going on in the economy, I was impressed with the number of people who showed up with money and the intention of buying RVs. People who love the RV lifestyle are still buying.”
Strong sales were reported at several shows, including the Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show, the North Carolina RV Camping Show (Greensboro, N.C.), the Washington Camping RV Expo and the New Jersey RV Show.
Randy Ketelsen, owner of Ketelsen Campers in Wheat Ridge, Co., told RVBusiness that he saw a switch in buyers’ moods at the Colorado show.
“I had a good feeling coming out of the show,” Ketelsen said. “The most important thing is there is a definite undertow of consumer interest and pent-up demand. It’s almost like they are waiting for someone to tell them that it’s OK to buy an RV and enjoy the lifestyle.”
In Greensboro, N.C., at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, 7,500 people attended the 20th Annual North Carolina RV & Camping Show and all 14 dealers displaying units reported sales.
“Steady traffic at this show in addition to new show features, got RVers in the mood to buy,” Gaither said. “In fact, several dealers reported great sales activity.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Jeff Haughton, vice president of Affinity Events’ Eastern region, who said buying activity in Greensboro was strong. “Comments from the dealers were that the quality of the crowd was superior,” Haughton said.
In Edison, N.J., it was reported that three banks were at the show in order to make sure that RV buyers had financing. “We had a good show,” said Walter Hynes, general manager of Scott Motor Coach Sales, based in Lakewood, N.J. “We didn’t see any delusional buyers. The buyers at the show were serious and ready with down payments. We feel that we will be able to get 90 percent of our sales from the show closed and credit approved.”
Steve Minghenelli, owner of Car Mart RV in Berlin, N.J. said that traffic at the show was excellent and that his dealership had several deals working. The company’s largest issue now is with trade-ins and financing. “A lot of customers are upside down with their trade-ins and we are working hard to get them financed,” Minghenelli said.
Despite being held only days before the presidential inauguration, Saturday traffic at the Washington Camping RV Expo, held in Chantilly, Va., was constant from the start of the show to its close.