December '19

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16 • RV PRO • December 2019 rv-pro.com Northern Lite's leadership team includes (from left) Purchasing Manager Russ Felty, Donkin, Office Manager Michelle Jones and Marketing Manager Brad Trites. R V M A N U F A C T U R E R S data falls far short of telling a complete story. In fact, Stat Surveys doesn't collect any retail sales data on truck camper sales in Canada, which is a significant part of the overall truck camper market. More detail is available on the truck camper manufac- turers themselves, and some trends are readily apparent. For example, truck campers are a highly regional product in terms of their origin: 22 of the 24 most well-known manufacturers are located west of the Mississippi River, and 14 of the 22 are on the West Coast. Of the 14 coastal OEMs, California and Oregon lead the way with four each, followed by British Columbia and Washington, with three each. Meanwhile, six of the 24 OEMs have no dealer network and sell factory direct only, according to a tally by Gordon White, publisher of Truck Camper Magazine, who shared his research with RV PRO. Promising Outlook for Truck Campers With little data publicly available on the truck camper market, it can be hard to come up with an assessment on how the niche segment is faring. For his part, Donkin sees a bright future for Northern Lite, as well as for the truck camper market in general. Since 2017, at least three manufacturers have halted truck camper manufacturing. However, five firms have entered the marketplace, according to White. "I think truck campers have been a hidden jewel," Donkin says. "And because of the exposure to them, we're getting more people seeing this will fit their lifestyle better. I know down here at the California show we're getting a lot of feedback on the campers. There were four truck camper companies at the California Show, which was probably the most they've ever had." What accounts for this growing appeal to truck campers? "A lot of the Baby Boomers are looking at Class B vans and truck campers. They like the freedom you can get with those products and we seem to get a lot of that business because of the flexibility of a truck camper," Donkin says. "You can unload it and still use your truck as a daily driver, and your ability to pull a boat or ATVs or side-by-sides is a lot easier to do with a truck and camper than it is with a Class B van." The stable Canadian currency this past year has helped, too. "The whole industry benefits when we have a stable dollar. The current exchange rate is definitely good for Canadian companies and for U.S. companies, as well when we're not getting the big fluctuations," Donkin says. While RV wholesale shipments industrywide for all RVs are down about 18 percent through September compared to the same time last year, Donkin sees a different story at Northern Lite. "We've seen continuous growth in this year," he says. "We continue to see positive growth numbers and we don't see anything slowing that down."

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