February '19

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46 • RV PRO • February 2019 rv-pro.com D E A L E R S are adding bays onto our existing service building. We're also planning a whole new facility with an indoor showroom, but that has been in the works for years already. It's a major project and it takes time to put all the pieces together. "I feel our margins will really suffer in the first quarter, as dealers everywhere will be dumping their 2019s to make room for the 2020 models, which are due in March and April, plus getting rid of the backlog of units we didn't sell in the last two months of 2018. "Over the past 40-plus years I've been in business, I have found that the ends of decades – years that end in nine – are most always bad. I don't expect that to change in 2019." Scot Ash, general manager Shady Maple RV Sales and Service East Earl, Pa. "Our sales are up 13 percent for 2018 versus 2017, and for 2019 we plan to maintain this sales level as manufacturers have finally caught up with demand. In 2018, we had issues with getting enough product on the lot. If we had more product on the lot in 2018, our increase over 2017 would have been much greater. "As it was in 2018, we were faced with demand outpacing deliveries of RVs from the manufacturers. We are in a better position with inventory as we look to 2019. "While interest rates have risen, we have not seen that to be a barrier to purchases at this point. I expect a few more increases in interest rates in 2019, which might slow down finance buyers, but I don't believe it will be a deal breaker. We sell mainly towable units, so a 1 percent increase in the interest rate doesn't represent a dollar amount that causes a buy or no-buy decision. Perhaps it would on motorized purchases. "Although we are blessed with many campgrounds in close proximity to us, we did see a drop in rentals in 2018, which we mostly attribute to a pretty wet summer in our area. "As we look to our winter season, our service department has booked up nicely with roof jobs and other projects that were postponed until the off season. "In terms of overall growth in 2018, we hired one additional technician, and we are looking to hire one more in 2019, as the demand for service continues to increase and we strive to provide faster turnaround times for our customers and cover more off-site service calls. "As for expanding our facility, we are planning to purchase land adjacent to our location in order to expand our sales lot and service center. "With two years of record sales volume, I am not expecting to continue to grow at the same rate. However, barring a drastic change in the economy, I do feel we are in a position to maintain or slightly increase our sales volume in 2019." Dan Sampson, general manager/partner Little Dealer Little Prices Prescott Valley, Ariz. "Industry-wide, I suspect 2019 will be a flat year for sales, possibly even slightly down. A few of the reasons being overall interest rates, although retail interest rates are not really much of a factor, and the increasing prices of materials. "But the biggest reason is negative news. Usually, after an election year, people relax and think about other things. But the negativity has not ended, due to opposition toward the president. Those who oppose him use the media to try to make it seem that the country is falling apart. "Inventory stocking levels are forefront in our minds going into 2019. We will be working our inventory management plan very carefully; it's what makes us able to adapt quickly to market conditions as they occur. We are cautious about it so we don't have an aged-inventory problem quarterly and ultimately at the end of the year. It's easy to be over-invento- ried and that's what we are watching for, and working against. "As always, we will be applying best-practices in all areas. This year, this includes replacing our lowest-producing employees and putting everyone on staff through training in preventing workplace harassment. "For 2019, our priorities are customer service, CSI rank- ings, and training to keep our social media ratings high. CSI, or Customer Satisfaction Index, is our own ranking, based on feedback from our own customers. We ask them how happy they are on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely they are to buy from us again, what they think of our sales team, how they like dealing with our service department, will they refer their friends – things like that. It's a very valuable tool. "In the RV business, it's very difficult to maintain a 4.5 star or higher rating on Facebook, Yelp, and Google. But it's very important to continue to strive for it, so we have special training for anyone involved in customer service, from service writers, to the service manager and the technicians working on their units, basically anyone who comes into contact with customers. We train them in things like responding to irate people, increasing empathy, avoiding hard feelings before they start, general communication skills, etc. "We will also be putting a lot of disciplined effort into training our technicians. In 2019, the service department will not be a necessary evil, but a profit center. With that in mind, our technicians are always training. "Part of our mission statement is continual improvement, so training is a requirement of employment. All our techs are either certified, master certified, or in the process of becoming RVDA and RVIA certified. And our service writers are all also training for RVDA certification. "With this approach, a slower year in sales doesn't mean we can't improve market share."

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