Cautious optimism seemed to be a common thread among those attending Industry Day at the Florida RV SuperShow Tuesday (Jan 17) at the Florida State Fairgrounds east of Tampa on I-4.
Industry Day allows OEMs, suppliers and dealers to host meetings and press events and tidy up their displays for the show’s public run Wednesday through Sunday. While the general public was not in attendance, a fair representation of the RVing public – many of those participating in the sold-out Super Rally – were taking an early look at the hundreds of units on display.
One such person was Jim Bagnall, who was camping on the grounds near the show in his fifth-wheel. He previously owned a Class C motorhome and was considering getting back into a Class C or even a Class A.
“I’m always open for suggestions. But unfortunately, sometimes the appetite doesn’t line up with the pocketbook,” he chuckled.
A Vermont resident, he spends summers there and winters in Titusville on Florida’s east coast, about two hours from Tampa.
While today’s economic climate may be fraught with some uncertainty, it wouldn’t keep Bagnall out of the market. But, he added, “It would have to be an awfully good deal for us to pull the trigger. But I think it’s nice to come over and see what’s new and what’s changed over the years and talk to some of the people here. We’ll try to keep some common sense in it, too.”
Dwayne Kazmierczak, director of sales and marketing for Renegade RV, a unit of REV Recreation Group which produces Class C and Super C motorhomes, has attended several shows already this year, including ones in Columbus, Ohio, Greensboro, S.C., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Mobile, Ala.
“All of them had very good attendance and a lot of the business was on travel trailers, but these people are not hunkered down and doom and gloom right now,” he said. “There are a lot of people shopping. And inside our four walls, as far as Renegade goes – because our product is a little more of a niche product and the price point is a little bit different – we haven’t had any dealers back off on any orders or anything like that. We’re feeling – we’d never say insulated or comfortable – but we’re cautiously optimistic. That’s probably the buzzword right now.”
He noted that until the industry gets a couple of months of the selling season behind it, “When we can actually have some data to say, ‘OK, the year should sum up like this,’ I don’t think anybody knows. We’re rubbing a crystal ball.”
Even so, Kazmierczak has seen some “good business” at the shows.
“Even at Grand Rapids – even though we didn’t sell anything there – people were engaged and they were asking the right questions,” he said.
He doesn’t believe economic uncertainty is keeping people out of the market, but, “I think it’s thinning it out a little bit. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that some of the dealer inventories have went up a little bit. It’s still nowhere near a scary level, but you compare it to the last two years when they didn’t have anything.”
Kazmierczak said he tracks dealer inventories every week and keeps a “pretty good finger on the pulse of that.” He said pre-COVID inventory across the whole country was probably in the range of 350,000 as far as units available for sale on the lots, “and we’re still under 200,000 right now.”
Supply chain issues have improved but still aren’t solved, he said. “Part of the problem is the way business has changed. You used to be able to go to a supplier and they’d have a warehouse full of stuff. Now, if you didn’t put in a PO 26 weeks ago, you’re not going to have anything available to you. It’s not a matter of a container ship coming in and they’re just stocking shelves. They’ve found a different way to do business,” he said.
John Wicks is sales manager for Fort Myers, Fla.-based North Trail RV Center, a 100-acre dealership that boasts $100,000,000 in inventory and is the nation’s No. 1 Newmar dealer.
He said his dealership brought 55 Newmar units to Tampa and he is looking forward to a solid show and a solid selling season.
“We’re a one-stop superstore with Newmar, Tiffin and all your Super C brands,” he said. “This is our primary big show. We do this show and we do a couple of shows in West Palm.”
He believes the RV market – especially for the units his dealership sells – is still strong.
“I think we’re having somewhat of a slowdown, but the way the business was the past couple of years was a product of a situation that went across the whole world, really. But no, we’re still seeing a lot of positive vibes. The market seems to be staying strong. We handle, primarily, mid-range to luxury products and buyers are still coming out. They’re still retiring. They still want to buy coaches and travel, so, the business is still staying strong.”
The Florida RV SuperShow opens to the public today (Jan. 18) and runs through Sunday. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Sunday.
Hundreds of units encompassing every type of RV – from pop-up campers and teardrops to luxury Class A motorhomes and everything in between – are being displayed by nearly 40 RV dealers.
Two exhibit halls play host to 400 supplier booths offering virtually every type of RV accessory.
Food vendors and roaming entertainers also are on hand. Admission is $15 and includes a second day for free. Children under at 16 are admitted free.