September '20

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20 • RV PRO • September 2020 rv-pro.com first-time buyers, we are seeing fewer trade-ins. Lower availability, combined with unprecedented demand, has led to increased prices at auctions, often book retail or only slightly less. "We continue to see the most growth with Cherokee, Passport and A-liner towables, likewise Sanibel fifth wheels. Our motorhome growth is strongest in Class B's and C's, particularly PleasureWay, Tiburon and Forester. "Parts and accessories continue to be a challenge due to short staffing at the OEM level and we are seeing a lot of errors in accuracy and timeliness due to substitution of insufficiently trained personnel. "In terms of banking, we are pleased with the support we get from our retail lenders. I believe our reputation for integrity and thoroughness with paperwork and communications has afforded us superior service and mutual trust. Our lenders are transparent regarding denials. We have no complaints. "Interest rates have been relatively consistent and are open to discussion. The ratio of customers paying cash versus financing has increased about 2 to 3 percent year-to-year and we have noticed a modest increase in down-payments, which I think is primarily due to our consultants raising customer expectations during the sales process. "I believe the next three or four months will be challenging, as manufacturers rebuild their capacities by hiring and training new employees and try to get their inbound supply lines back up to speed. Labor efficiencies and quality control will be challenges for them and the shortage of pre-owned units will be difficult for us. "For the rest of the year, we will be focusing on convincing prospects of the many advantages of buying new and making appointments (which have a much higher closing ratio) instead of waiting on walk-ins." Terry Sinkler, president U-Neek RV Center Kelso, Wash. "Overall, the market is stronger than we've seen in years, though I expect this is a short-lived burst of demand and expect to see a slowdown this fall as the virus continues to spread and the number of unemployed remains high. The virus will be good for our industry in the long run, as more people remain hesitant to fly overseas or crowd onto cruise ships. "Meeting demand is a little harder. Most factories are still not at 100 percent and neither are their suppliers, which is causing issues with the supply chain and the ability to build product. Units we ordered at the beginning of the year for delivery in April and May are not expected until September, October or later. "Right now, there isn't any product we can get that is not selling. We are completely sold out of several brands and have a much lower-than-normal inventory on all others. The only segment that has not seen big demand is larger fifth wheels. "While we are slowly getting units, we have really struggled getting parts and accessories. If you walk through our store today, you will see nearly a third of the peg hooks and shelves empty. Suppliers have over 100 of a part in the Midwest and none of that part in any of their other eight warehouses. It has been very frustrating for our parts staff, technicians and most importantly, our customers. "When you cannot get the part you need to get the customer's unit working so they can use it, it creates a big problem. We are selling new units but cannot get needed parts from factories or suppliers. It's a bad situation for the industry. "On the positive side, we have not seen approvals declining or interest rates going up, other than for customers who are tempo- rarily laid off having more difficulty with banks requiring more proof of income. As for cash customers, in June we saw an influx, but July has returned to a more normal percentage. "I think the rest of 2020 is going to be as much of a roller- coaster as the first six months. Demand is still higher than normal, although sales have returned to a more normal state due to lack of inventory. Ours are holding at about a third of what they would normally be for the summer months. We still have all of our to-build orders in the pipeline and we have added more to replace the units we would normally have. "I don't expect to carry as much inventory into winter as usual because, between continued cases of COVID-19 and the threat of further business failures in restaurants and other highly impacted business, I believe there will be a slowdown from what we normally see in the off-season, making this winter very challenging. I think it will take the industry another nine months to a year to recover completely. A lot is going to depend on how the virus grows or shrinks and how soon a vaccine is created." Brian Wilkins, owner Wilkins RV Bath, N.Y. "I've been in this business since I was a 9-year-old kid, and I've been full-time for about 25 years. This is probably the most aggressive market I have ever seen, and it has sustained for about 2.5 months now. "Inventory is as low as I have ever seen it. We are working closely with our manufacturing partners and have added a couple of new ones. It's frustrating, because we are missing some sales, but it's nobody's fault. "The things that are selling best are stick-and-tin, entry-level trailers and anything used. We are also doing well with travel trailers, fifth wheels up to $50K and Class C's. As for brands, with four stores, we carry a lot of different brands, but no one is outselling the others. "As for parts and accessories, I am not close enough to it to answer. It is probably an issue, but not so big an issue that it's coming up to me. We are working hard to educate our customers about how difficult it is. We are asking them to come in only with issues that are keeping them from camping and hold off on

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