RV PRO

September '18

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110 • RV PRO • September 2018 rv-pro.com D E A L E R S idea that there are a lot of people who are new to the industry and renting as a way of trying it out. This is good, because it indicates an increase in interest in the RVing lifestyle and potential future new customers." Jean-François Lussier, president Horizon Lussier RV Marieville, Québec, Canada "In general, our customers come from about a 50-mile radius, but people buying something big like a motorhome will travel across the entire province. We're dealers for Leisure Travel and Tiffin Motor Home, and we cover Ottawa all the way to the Atlantic Provinces. For travel trailers, we carry Cherokee's fifth wheel and travel trailer, Cedar Creek's fifth wheel and park (model), Apex and Shadow Cruiser. And we're adding the Hymer Travel Trailer in 2019. They are a Canadian company and we already carry their Class B van. Our motorhomes include Coachmen's Freelander Class C and Forest River's FR-3 Class A. "The RV lifestyle is very important in the province of Quebec. Montreal has 4 million people, with about 8 million in the entire province. Here, people use their RVs to attend Quebec's many festivals and do a lot more than just camping; they're like summer houses. "The thing about the changes in the value of the Canadian dollar is, we want it to be as stable as possible. When it keeps going up and down is when people worry. It's at $1.25 now, and if it stays that way, people will get used to it. It's not a major issue. But gas has an impact. Right now, it's between $1.35 and $1.50 per liter – that's just under $6 per gallon U.S. That has a bigger effect on RVing than the cost of the unit itself. "Considering NAFTA, overall, it's going to hurt both coun- tries more than it will do anything good for the United States. Taxes will go up and that will increase the cost of goods from suppliers, which will increase the price of the finished product for the consumer. "If it fails, that won't be good, but we'll come up with some- thing else. Not knowing what will happen is stressful, but we have no way of knowing, so we just keep going forward and hoping for the best. "Product sales depend a lot on the category. Across categories we sell a lot of anything related to water, sewage odor control, cleaning, etc. In the motorhome category, we're selling satellite dishes, Wi-Fi systems, outdoor carpet, chairs – things like that. "We try to keep up with tastes so we can offer what customers want. Right now, it's big chairs for sitting outside. We send our people to the manufacturers' shows, so we always know what's new and what's coming. These days, most units come with a stabilizer jack, a hitch jack – all the important things – so there's not a lot of must-have add-ons to sell. "We don't have a very big parts department, but we have what customers need. There are not really that many Cana- dian distributors. Most parts come from the U.S. There's not much RV stuff in Canada except wood, aluminum and steel. They go to the U.S. as raw material and come back as finished products. "Lots of parts come from China. Companies like LKQ, the holding company for NTP-STAG, import container-loads to the U.S. and then we buy from their distribution centers. As a result, availability is OK. The bigger problem is getting parts from the RV manufacturers. Unlike cars, RV production is not highly robotized, so it takes longer, making it harder for them to keep up with demand. "In terms of certified techs, there are two schools in the western provinces, but they're barely able to keep up with the demand for them in B.C. and Alberta. Here in the eastern provinces, we're pretty much on our own. The manufacturers are trying to help. Tiffin offers a training every year and I go with two or three of my techs and then teach what we learn to the rest of the staff. Basically, we have the same problem they have in the (United) States – a shortage of human resources. And it's even tighter here in Quebec with the language issue. I try to hire mainly French-speaking staff, including one or two who are bilingual. "RVDA Quebec provides a lot of money and training, not just for techs, but sales and other positions, as well. And there are grants and training from RVDA Canada, too, which we use for things like sending a team to the annual Trouble Shooter Clinic in Saskatchewan, which requires airfare and hotel, so it's very expensive. "Looking forward, my gut feeling is that 2018 is going to look like 2017. When I talk to my American friends, they tell me the inventory on their lots is pretty high. We all buy trailers a year ahead and there are so many things that can happen to change the whole year. Lots of people ordered 5 or 10 percent more inventory for 2018, but now it doesn't look like those sales will happen. "It seems as though the cycle is changing. The trend seems to be toward more buying in mid-summer and during the end- of-year sales. There are about 80 dealers in the province and last year we sold just shy of 9,000 units. I'd like to see us hit 10,000 for 2018, but I'm not so sure. "I've been in the industry over 50 years and it's getting harder and harder to see into the crystal ball. People are talking about travel on social media and that raises interest. But consumer confidence isn't that strong anywhere. There's lots of money in Quebec and unemployment is at the lowest it's ever been, but confidence is shaken, so people are not spending as much as they might. "On the other hand, we're pretty well recovered from the recession of 2015-16 and the construction economy is coming back, so people have more money. And it's an election year, which means there will be more spending on infrastructure. They always spend money on roads and bridges before an election, and that makes a positive difference to the RV industry."

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