February '19

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rv-pro.com February 2019 • RV PRO • 21 Darrel Friesen, president of the Yuba City, Calif.-based deal- ership, took that message to heart – and slashed the dealership's inventory by $1.5 million. While the dealership shaped up from an inventory perspec- tive, the Friesens couldn't have anticipated other major challenges that followed, which included losing the dealership's flooring company and having three of its manufacturer partners – repre- senting roughly 85 percent of the inventory All Seasons carried on its sales lot – shutter their doors. "At the same time we were trying to (sell off ) old products and find good products to carry, we also found ourselves looking for a flooring company," Ernie Friesen recalls. Fortunately for All Seasons, the dealership was able to pay cash to buy a small mix of towable and motorized units at a steep discount when a large California competitor closed all six of its dealerships and liquidated its inventory. At the time, All Seasons' management team would have liked to have purchased even more inventory from the failing deal- ership. However, as it turns out, not buying more units was a good decision because the business avoided overextending itself. "It truly was a blessing in disguise, because at the time, we didn't have cash to buy any more product," Darrel Friesen says now. The RVs that All Seasons purchased kept the Friesens flush with inventory until they were able to identify a new flooring company in Bank of the West. The father-and-son team also found a local credit union to manage the retail side of their financing. "One of the biggest lessons we learned," Ernie Friesen says, "is not to put all of our eggs in one basket. Going into the Recession, we had only one flooring company. From now on, we'll always have a fall back." California was particularly hard hit by the Great Recession. Figure 1 Impact of the Great Recession Upon RV Dealers * 2007 2012 Number of RV Dealers 3,100 2,619 Annual Payroll $1.67 billion $1.33 billion Total Employees 42,669 31,992 * Figures provided by the RV Dealers Association using underlying data from the U.S. Census Bureau The Golden State lost more than 1 million jobs from the peak of employment in July 2007 to the end of 2009 – the largest absolute drop of any state. Meanwhile, personal and business bankruptcies grew by 58 percent in 2009, compared to a national increase of 32 percent, according to data from the American Bankruptcy Institute. The impact upon the RV dealerships in California was dev- astating. Before 2008, All Seasons was one of 78 dealers in the state. By the end of the Recession, the total number of dealers was reduced by more than half, to just 34, according to Darrel Friesen. While All Seasons kept its doors open, it had to make some difficult decisions, including reducing staff. "Our sales manager became the finance manager and salesman," Darrel Friesen says. "Everyone was doing two or three jobs – and there were some great techs we had to let go." Fortunately, the U.S. economy rebounded a few short years later – but that presented All Seasons with a new set of challenges. "During the Recession, dealers, manufacturers and suppliers laid off a lot of people," Ernie Friesen says, somberly. "When the

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