Watching its recreational vehicle sales slow because potential customers could not afford both the RV and the vehicle to tow it, CrossRoads RV, Topeka, Ind., has expanded into the recreational park trailer market.
These customers, Jim Fox, national sales manager at CrossRoads, explained, are attracted to the RV lifestyle and want to enjoy the outdoors with their families. Consequently, park trailers become the viable solution, giving them the RV experience without the hefty price tag, according to the Elkhart (Ind.) Truth.
“It just seems to be the coming thing,” Fox said of park trailers. “People were looking for a way they could get away but still feel as comfortable as they do at home.”
Park trailer manufacturers have assembled in Louisville, Ky., as a part of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 45th Annual National RV Trade Show. At the show, which opened Tuesday (Nov. 27) and runs through Thursday, manufacturers are looking to expand their dealer networks even while their market is slowing.
Like the RV industry, the park trailer industry has seen its wholesale shipments decline in 2007, according to the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association. Through September, the most recent figures available, the industry has shipped about 7,000 units, nearly 1,000 fewer units than were shipped during the same period in 2006.
And manufacturers do not expect shipments to grow in 2008 since consumers are getting squeezed by rising prices and, in general, are uneasy about the national economy.
Still, park trailer manufacturers are confident of their products’ appeal and ability to sell. Although people are cutting back on luxury items, John Szucs of Scenic View in Elkhart, Ind., said they still need leisure time.
With an average retail price of $40,000, park trailer manufacturers promote their units as providing a leisure-time sanctuary at a cost that is less than many RV towables and well under the price of a site-built vacation home.
The units are limited to 400 square feet but manufacturers are designing them and equipping them to have the character of a residential home and not an RV. Spacious living rooms, kitchens with full-sized appliances, bathrooms and a single bedroom comprise a standard park trailer.
Scenic View is now offering solid wood cabinets and drywall interiors on its models.
Manufacturers are including such amenities to meet the buying public’s demands, said Bill Garpow, executive director of RPTIA. Buyers want park trailers to have many of the same features as their homes.
To convince a new dealer or a campground operator to sell park trailers in the current market, Curt Yoder, vice president of Kropf Industries in Goshen, Ind., said his company has to show that good money can be made selling these units.
“Once you have a park, a lot of times, they sell themselves,” Yoder said of the park trailers. “If a unit is going to be in a campground permanently, this way makes sense.”