By Chuck Woodbury
The RV Industry Association (RVIA) is reporting that sales of RVs have increased 170 percent since this time last year. Coast to coast, the media is reporting that dealers are doing a booming business. RVs are more popular, it seems, than ever before.
Mike McLaughlin, the general manager at TravelCamp in Savannah says it has a lot to do with the coronavirus pandemic. “Business is pretty busy at the moment. A lot of it has to do people just wanting to get out of the house, especially with this pandemic that is happening. People are getting cabin fever.” He says his dealership is having a hard time keeping its lot full.
Sales at Mike Regan’s two RV dealerships outside Austin, Texas, are up 30% compared with last May. Regan said business has been so brisk he may not have enough trailers and motorhomes to meet demand. “The minute the campgrounds opened on May 1 and the governor turned everyone loose, our business went through the roof,” said Regan, whose sales at his dealerships were down about 50% just last month.
I BELIEVE IT’S ALSO BECAUSE RVs are the only way to travel now and be safe, or at least as safe as one can be while traveling. Who wants to get on a cruise ship or even stay in a hotel room where a stranger slept the night before? With an RV you bring along your own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Any germs are your own.
A few months ago, when the pandemic hit “official status” and people starting losing jobs in a big way (now more than 40 million lost), I would have thought people would be trying to get rid of RVs they could no longer afford, not buy them. Right now, it doesn’t look that way.
It sounds bad that 40 million Americans have lost their jobs. You might think that would spell disaster for any industry. But what I conclude is that the people who lost their jobs could never afford an RV to begin with. They are service workers. Many, if not most, earned the minimum wage or close to it. The people who could afford RVs before can still afford them.
On April 5th, we asked our RVtravel.com readers how badly they needed the federal stimulus money coming from the government. Of the 2,279 readers who responded only 3 percent said they desperately needed it. Two-thirds of the respondents said they did not need the money. I am not sensing a whole lot of financial pain from the audience of this website.
HERE IN THE RV PARK where I’m staying, it’s routine to see the RVers paying $500 to have their coaches washed and waxed. A husband-wife team is doing a booming business. People who are hurting financially do not pay that kind of money for a non-essential service.
RV manufacturing plants have opened up again. But some are having problems getting parts to build the RVs, some from China. And the factories are practicing social distancing. I wonder about that: How can workers on a mostly human-intensive assembly line crank out RVs without bumping into each other?
Elkhart County, Indiana, where 80 to 90 percent of all RVs are built, currently has a 29 percent unemployment rate (second highest in the state), and COVID cases are rising. Just a few years ago, the unemployment rate was among the very lowest in the country. So production today is far from what it was. Where will it be in six months?
How long will those factories be able to continue if workers test positive in the weeks ahead and/or decide it’s too dangerous to come to work?
But, if in fact, sales continue to boom, then demand for spaces in RV parks will go up, too. Where will that leave you and me, when it’s already difficult to get a reservation in a popular location? In our reader poll yesterday we asked our readers about their favorite type of campground. More than half of the first 2,000 respondents reported they prefer to stay in an “RV park with full hookups.”
So get ready for more company in your favorite RV park.
Sales of RVs may be good headed into June, but I have a gut feeling that there’s something ahead that nobody is seeing right now that will toss a big ol’ monkey wrench into everything and all the happy talk of industry leaders and cheerleaders will disappear.
Your comments are welcome, but be civil, respectful and don’t call people names because they believe differently than you.