September '20

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138 • RV PRO • September 2020 rv-pro.com 100 percent of our time on operating and growing the business," he says. RV Retailer currently has stores in Ari- zona, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, New York, North and South Carolina and Texas. The company has focused much of its attention on the Sun Belt – and for good reason. "The Sun Belt has great overall demo- graphics in terms of population growth and RV industry growth prospects. The top two states that we have targeted from the begin- ning are Texas and Florida," Ferrando says. "We have 15 stores in those states already and expect more. (Texas and Florida together account for over 16 percent of U.S. industry RV sales, according to Statistical Surveys). We have also made excellent acquisitions in Arizona and the Carolinas, which are very strong RV markets. We have expansion plans into other (geographic areas) as we execute on our long-term strategy to build a sales and service network for our customers from coast to coast." While Ferrando says RV Retailer is open to the prospect of launching its own retail outlets, thus far it has only done so with one store, in Tyler, Texas. "'Greenfields' (startups) are an important part of our growth strategy, but it takes time to develop them," he says. "We have several more that we are working on." Ferrando did not elaborate on their locations. Not the Only One While RV Retailer is the largest and perhaps most prominent of the privately funded RV dealer networks, it is far from the only one growing through acquisitions in recent years. Campers Inn RV, based in Jacksonville, Fla., describes itself as the largest fami- ly-owned dealership in the country, with 30 locations in 12 states, primarily along the East Coast. Founded by family patriarch Arthur Hirsch in 1966, the business has added four dealerships in each of the last two years. Its most recent acquisitions were Boat-N-RV dealerships in Albany, N.Y., and Hamburg, Pa., and Campers Inn RV of Conway, S.C., all announced in March. Further expansion opportunities are in place, according to CEO Jeff Hirsch, who told RV PRO earlier this year that Campers Inn plans to grow without the need to go public. "I think there's something to say about a family business. And not to say that cor- porate business is bad … but I think that being a family business creates a certain amount of latitude for us. Our money is very patient. And I think patient money lends itself to making the decisions that are going to impact the company favorably." A second regional chain is Family RV Group, which has 12 locations in five Mid- west and mid-South states. Founded in 1968 as Colerain Family RV, a family-owned RV dealership in a northwest suburb of Cin- cinnati, the network rebranded as Family RV Group after being acquired in 2016 by private equity firm Kidd & Co. The private equity firm's investment has helped Family RV grow its geographic foot- print to 12 locations through acquisitions, with the latest being Candys Campers in October 2019. Today, those locations loosely follow the I-75 corridor: three in Ohio, two in Indiana, three in Kentucky, three in Ten- nessee and one in northern Georgia. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Blue Dog RV has grown to 17 stores since the dealership's founding in 2008 in Post Falls, Idaho, by John and Rebecca Asplund. In July, the dealership acquired Larry's RV in Redmond, Ore., which will be rebranded as a Blue Dog RV store. Also in July, Blue Dog announced it was breaking ground on a new dealership on 5.5 acres in Anderson, Calif., with plans to open that facility in the fall. Blue Dog's stores are located in the Pacific Northwest states of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho, plus Nevada, and one location on the East Coast, in Fleetwood, Pa. The group is fairly evenly split between established dealerships and startup operations. "We are in acquisition mode and will have at least one more (deal) finalized by end-of-year," predicts Marc Hauser, chief financial officer. Despite a softening market for RV sales during late 2019 and early 2020, as well as a national economy that has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hauser says Blue Dog RV remains optimistic regarding the RV market's long-term outlook. "Our industry is very resilient and seems to bounce back stronger and more disci- plined after major catastrophic events (such as the Gulf War, 9/11, 2008 financial melt- down, etc.)," he says. "Our focus has always been not just in the short-term viability of the industry but also the five- to 10-year landscape – and we are very bullish on the strength of our industry." Publicly Held Dealerships Also Big Consolidators As privately held dealership groups con- tinue to eye acquisitions moving forward, they are likely to find themselves in compe- tition with the two publicly held dealership groups: Camping World and Lazydays RV. Founded in 1976, Lazydays consisted Blue Dog RV was founded in 2008 in Post Falls, Idaho, by John and Rebecca Asplund. The dealership has since grown to 17 stores, primarily located in the Pacific Northwest.

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