Extreme winter weather in some regions of the U.S. has taken a toll on the campground industry, and not just among park owners. Suppliers report sales are flagging in the northern regions that were hardest hit.
“This winter is killing retail. January was one of our worst months ever,” said Jessica Ellenbecker, co-owner with Steve Burnham of campground store supplier All Things Jerky. While normal springtime events remain on their schedule, they say there’s still some recovery to be done.
“We’ll be out doing our thing at the different fairs and festivals in the area, and that will help,” Burnham added. “The retail, that’s still tough.”
The sales slowdown is being felt by all kinds of companies, including dump-station equipment supplier The Tower Company, where owner Christine Kornely is also feeling concern over park owners’ restricted window of time between the snow going out and campers coming in.
“I feel so bad because the campgrounds are so crunched for time. I got a call with an order from a state park in Michigan, and I asked her, ‘Are you putting those in now?’ She said, ‘No, we just got eight inches of snow today, but I’m ordering anyway,’” Kornely said. “We feel how they’ve been hit, and we’re just waiting for everyone to lose their snow.”
Some are looking at that condensed preparation period and bracing themselves for a rush of orders in a narrow time frame that could put pressure on their inventory and supply capabilities. Jamestown Advanced Products, for example, launched a spring promotion intended to encourage early business and avoid that kind of pressure situation. But while some suppliers are concerned about getting an influx of orders, others are concerned they won’t; for the latter, it’s not a matter of deferred sales so much as sales lost entirely. That’s the case with TrailMate, a company that makes specialty bicycles and karts for campgrounds.
According to President Wendy Shim, the extreme and prolonged winter has had a near-devastating effect on their spring sales. A flood of sales might put TrailMate in a pinch, but “we’re ready to give them whatever they want,” she said. “We haven’t been able to sell much of anything outside of Florida. We’re thinking maybe we can’t recoup that even after the thaw comes. That’s what we’re really worried about.”
Flooding of another kind is yet another concern if the record-breaking piles of snow go out the same way they came in: too much, too soon. While Kornely said she’s “waiting for that real intense thaw,” Ellenbecker expressed trepidation for what that thaw could bring. “If it gets too warm too fast, it has nowhere to go,” she stated.
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