Attendance is down for the 56th Annual California RV Show at the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., but dealers are still reporting satisfactory business through day No. 6 of the 10-day show.
Wildfires on the outskirts of the Los Angeles metro area, some 30 miles away from the Fairplex, have discouraged some people from attending, said Marsha McInnis, show director. Some freeway off-ramps were closed elsewhere, making it difficult for some people to reach the show, which is held a the Los Angeles County Fair and Exposition grounds and hosted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
“Our attendance has suffered because people couldn’t get to us or they had more important things to take care of, like their homes,” she explained. “Some days our attendance was down 20%, some days it was down 30%. But buyers are here and dealers seem to be happy.”
She said dealers are seeing better credit scores from buyers than they see on their sales lots. One dealer told her Tuesday that he was ahead of the sales pace of last year’s show, while another dealer said he had hit his sales goal for the show.
Firefighters were getting many of the fires under control by late Tuesday, McInnis reported, which may prompt an upturn in attendance as the weekend approaches. The show runs through Sunday.
McInnis added that even the intense heat and an hour-long power outage on Wednesday due to excessive electrical draws by the 1,200 units on display didn’t deter the overall mood.
Mark Rosenbaum, sales director at Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores, one of 35 California dealers participating in the event, surmised that the typical buyer at this year’s show is a better credit risk than in past years.
“My gut feeling is the average age of the RV buyer has gone up (this year) and is more of your traditional RV buyer,” Rosenbaum said, meaning the demographic is leaning back toward the Baby Boomers, at least for now.
He estimated that 85% of the buyers have good to excellent credit with credit scores of 680 or above.
Unlike past shows when particular units, such as diesel motorhomes or toy haulers captured buyers’ attention, there seems to be no single unit that is “hot,” he said, adding, “Everything is doing OK.”
Rosenbaum said shoppers seem to be more inquisitive about the units on display and the strength of the manufacturer standing behind them.
If the Pomona show is indeed a bellwether for the industry, said Rosenbaum who is a veteran of 30 Pomona shows, this year’s event lags the 2004 and 2005 shows. But compared to shows prior to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, “this is pretty average.”
“I’m the eternal optimist,” he said. “I’ve been in business with Mike Thompson for 30 years and I remember the long gas lines, interest rates at 15.99%. This too will pass.
“I am encouraged for what this show has brought for us now. I know people are going on the shelf waiting for the election, for the economy to turn around and are looking for answers to get their consumer confidence back before parting with their money.”
Rosenbaum noted that despite some positive signs at the show, the dealership is bracing for a tough winter.
“We know it will be a tough winter and preparing for it is the best thing we can do,” he said. “Come February and March, we will be ready to drive home this market because I know there will be a lot of pent up demand.”