February '19

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26 • RV PRO • February 2019 rv-pro.com D E A L E R S willing to get to the other side. Our philosophy was that we were going to invest in the business and get to the other side. We still believe that today." Today, Pickard says his team is on track to take Mid-State RV yearly revenues to $50 million, having recently completed a $2.5 million expansion of the dealership's parts and services department and property. While business is good, Pickard says he and his wife continue to operate the business conservatively – perhaps even more conservatively than in the past – while remaining focused on building equity. Greeneway RV Grows Its Service Ops While the Great Recession proved to be a tough time for many dealerships nationwide, it did offer growth oppor- tunities for some nimble retailers, like Wisconsin's Gree- neway RV. "The biggest thing that happened was you just saw banks pulling away from the RV industry," says Mick Ferkey, owner and sales manager of Greeneway RV. "It left a lot of dealers in a mess, where they either couldn't get enough credit, couldn't downsize quickly enough, or didn't have the equity to survive." Ferkey says he was lucky in that he was aligned with a local bank that understood the RV business. Additionally, operating the business in a fiscally conservative manner and carrying little debt proved advantageous, he says. Greeneway RV has been in business in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., for more than 50 years, primarily retailing towables and park trailers. The city is located about 110 miles north of the state's capital, Madison, Wis. Ferkey says that, despite the turmoil roiling the national economy, he didn't panic. Instead, he bought distressed inventory at discounted rates from banks and manufac- turers as well as used RVs from customers who needed to sell their units. At the same time, he added on 10 service bays, picked up and trained a handful of out-of-work service technicians, and expanded his parts operation. Ferkey says growing his parts and service business proved particularly fruitful at a time when customers were holding on to their aging RVs longer. "Their income was slashed, or they had been laid off," he says. "They couldn't afford a new unit, but they still needed to have things fixed." The Midwest slogged through a long, slow recovery along with the rest of the country, but much of the region held steady, with unemployment rates of 5 percent or less, according to a 2011 report on Mainstreet. And neighborhoods in the Midwest fared much better during the foreclosure crisis that ravaged housing markets on the East and West coasts. Today, with 32 employees and 17 service bays in its single location, Ferkey still believes in the value of being cautious and running his business efficiently. "I think you have to really manage your business, keep your finger on it, and don't get carried away on inventory," he says. Even with RV inventory at an all-time high in 2018, Ferkey says he remained true to his conservative fiscal principles. For example, he says he canceled an order for park trailers he'd made the previous year. The models didn't arrive on a timely basis and were coming in at $1,200 more than the price he initially agreed to pay. And Ferkey says he intends to continue to be cautious in 2019. "There's a lot of inventory out there," he says. "I think next year (2019) will be a good one, but I don't think we're going to continue to have the sustained growth we've seen." While Ferkey doesn't foresee a correction anywhere near the magnitude of what dealers saw during the Great Reces- sion, he says he remains concerned over dealers who carry a large amount of inventory. "And, as we move forward, I think I'm going to learn a lot," he says. "I continue to talk to a lot of dealers just to see what is really happening in the industry in different market areas." Greeneway also continues to benefit from its decision to drop motorhomes from its inventory – a decision Ferkey says he and his wife made in 1987, when they bought half of the business. "In a town of 18,000 people, we saw motorized as pretty risky," he says, adding that during the Recession he observed that many dealers of large, motorized units struggled financially. When the Great Recession struck, Greeneway RV owner Mick Ferkey used the opportunity to buy distressed inventory at discounted rates. He also expanded the dealership's service operations, adding 10 service bays and hiring more service technicians.

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