The global pandemic forever altered the course of the North American RV industry – at first crushing the prospects of thousands of companies, then spurring an epic surge among current and prospective RV consumers that has lifted the fates of manufacturers, suppliers, campground operators and hundreds of dealerships nationwide.
In fact, what the viral pandemic did on the consumer side of the industry – catching the eye of an unforeseen wave of current and future RV consumers who have gravitated to the RV lifestyle over the past year as a healthy alternative to conventional travel and spurring retail sales in the process – is the main reason for which the staff at RVBusiness – a sister publication to Woodall’s campground Management – named “The RV Industry’s Resurgence” as its “2020 Newsmaker of the Year.”
And while the pandemic’s effects are still a harsh reality in most corners of the U.S. and Canadian RV markets, 2020 won’t soon be forgotten within the RV universe at any level following a year that also saw epic RV rentals, remarkable campground attendance from coast to coast and unprecedented national media coverage on almost a daily basis in everything from Forbes to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
That’s the general consensus of almost everyone with whom RVBusiness touched bases during the last weeks of 2020. But, of course, it was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of galvanizing industry newsmakers in 2020, considering some of the others:
THOR Acquires Tiffin Motorhomes for $300M: Rumors had been rampant around the industry for a couple of weeks that THOR Industries Inc. was about to acquire highline, family-held RV builder Tiffin Motorhomes and its allied business units. And the Dec. 21 public announcement confirming that historic transaction captured the industry’s attention because of the impact it might have for THOR, the nation’s largest RV builder, and in general the U.S. motorized marketplace, in which Tiffin plays a central and highly visible role.
Camping World Keeps the Acquisitive Beat: Camping World Holdings Inc. (CWHI), the nation’s largest network of RV and outdoor stores with more than 160 CW and Gander-related SuperCenters, capped off 2020 with a resurgent dealer buying spree that included Paul Sherry RV in Piqua, Ohio, All RV Needs in Medford., Ore., an Outlet Recreation facility in Fargo, N.D., and Noble RV’s four Minnesota stores. CWHI also maintained its edge as one of the industry’s most aggressive marketers under the ongoing direction of President and CEO Marcus Lemonis.
RV Retailer LLC’s Emerging Role: Although dealers like Lazydays Holdings Inc., Campers Inn RV, Blue Dog RV and National Indoor RV Centers are also posting strong growth, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based RV Retailer LLC continues to establish itself as a bonafide power in the U.S. retail universe with 38 U.S. retail stores. RVR’s most recent additions – its 12th and 13th in 2020 after only two years in the RV business – included North Carolina’s Golden Gait Trailers & RVs near Charlotte and Camptown RV in the Raleigh market.
Lippert’s Aggressive/Charitable Hand: Lippert Components Inc. capped off another growth year with the late year acquisition of Challenger Door, LLC, Nappanee, Ind., an RV, specialty and cargo trailer supplier, and New Paris, Ind.-based Veada Industries Inc., marketing boat seating and marine accessories. At the same time, Lippert continues to build a charity-minded reputation for, among other things, its sponsorship of another impressive “Bids for Kids” auction benefitting the Goshen Boys & Girls Club. Lippert has also recently partnered with three Northern Indiana health-related agencies to support mental wellbeing initiatives for frontline healthcare workers.
Patrick Industries Inc.: An Ambitious Player: A growth-oriented supplier by anyone’s measure, publicly held Patrick Industries Inc. closed out 2020 with the purchase of a few companies that represent continued diversification for the Northern Indiana firm including Florida marine vendor Taco Metals LLC, Lake Zurich, Ill.-based Geremarie Corporation and Englewood, Colo.-based Front Range Stone Inc., a countertop fabricator and installer for several markets. All this in a year in which Patrick bought Indiana-based plywood laminator Inland Plywood and Goshen, Ind.-based Synergy RV Transport plus Goshen’s Maple City Woodworking, making hardwood cabinet doors and fascia for RVs.
Winnebago Rebrands Classic RV Legacy: Winnebago Industries Inc., an Iowa-based RV and boat builder that reported Q1 revenues up 34.8% in mid-December, has introduced a refreshed corporate enterprise brand identity including a new visual identity system, wordmark and tagline – “Be Great, Outdoors.” “We are thrilled to be introducing a refreshed corporate enterprise brand at a time when people are increasingly turning to the outdoors to pursue extraordinary experiences with family and friends,” said Winnebago President and CEO Michael Happe, whose company is best known today for its Winnebago, Grand Design, Chris-Craft and Newmar brands.
Industry Personalities Who Passed Away in 2020: Art Decio, who passed Nov. 6 at the age of 90, was one of the recreational vehicle industry’s true foundational patriarchs after having built manufactured housing and RV builder Skyline Corp. into a national powerhouse.
But Decio, best known in the RV field for his Elkhart-based firm’s “Nomad,” “Layton,” “Aljo” and “WeekEnder” towable RV brands, was actually one of several industry notables who’s obituaries appeared during 2020, Among the others:
- Mark Warmoth, a founder of the “Weekend Warrior“ toy hauler brand in the 1990’s and early 2000’s who passed away Oct. 24 in Canyon Lake, Calif., at the age of 64.
- Glenn F. Kummer, 87, former president and COO of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., who died on Nov. 7 and was laid to rest in Lindon, Utah.
- Del Sanders, a former Florida dealer whose original dealership, J.D. Sanders RV Center, was founded in 1971 by his parents, J.D. and Dorothy Sanders. Passing away in late October, Kummer was a former RVDA chairman and an active member of the ROUTE 66 RV Network.
- Known widely as “The RV Doctor” for his long-time interface with RV consumers as an expert educator, speaker, writer and producer, Gary Bunzer — a Navy veteran, 40-year industry presence and RV/MH Hall of Fame inductee – passed away April 17.