Some thoughts about Camping World

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By Chuck Woodbury
Camping World announced its fourth quarter and 2018 yearly earnings on Friday. A day earlier it conducted a conference call with its investors. CEO Marcus Lemonis and other Camping World Holdings, Inc./Good Sam executives provided updates on the business. Read the complete earnings report and conference call if you wish.

Here is some of what I found interesting.


Camping World Holdings Inc. reported that revenue increased 10.6% to $982.4 million during its fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, while the company incurred a net loss of $43 million during the period.

According to Lemonis, the company sold 104,296 RVs in 2018, which was up from 97,063 the year before. Think about that — more than 100,000 of the approximately 500,000 RVs sold that year were sold by Camping World — for the non-mathematicians in the crowd that’s one out of five RVs.

The average selling price of a new RV was $32,542. Gross profit per vehicle sold including finance and insurance was $8,487.

The company added 78,189 Good Sam Club members in the fourth quarter 2018 and membership increased 16.7% year over year to an all-time-high of 2.1 million members.

At Dec. 31, 2018, Camping World Holdings operated 212 retail locations including 128 Camping World RV product, parts and accessory stores; 60 Gander Outdoors stores; and 24 other specialty stores.

Camping World’s stock Friday closed at $12.92, which was down almost 70% from this time last year.

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Captn John

“Camping World’s stock Friday closed at $12.92, which was down almost 70% from this time last year.” CW stock IMO is not one to hold but to trade. I bought soon after the IPO and sold with a 40% gain. I’m a buyer again if/WHEN it goes under $10. When the next recession hits it will go down much lower than that is my guess. In the mean time~ trade.

Bruce Maass

Observations: I have also wondered at the large inventories we see all across the country at CW and other large retailers. Even with half a million sales per year, there is carryover inventory, end of year sales prices, and all the economic folly that the automotive industry has brought upon itself for years. Over production does mean that workers are kept on the job, out source suppliers keep spitting out cabinetry, pumps, tanks, major components and doodads. OK, fine, I get economics. But, that means their will be on the lot competition between 2018 and 2019 models, a reduced market for used RVs because a new year old model will often cost less than a year old trade in will bring. The industry could use some scarcity, a little competition to get that RV we want. At the RV show in Jax, Florida this year, the “RV Show Sales Price” was as usual 30-40% below MSRP. If someone did buy near MSRP last year and wants more slides, 2 feet longer or whatever this year, he or she will lose a bundle (I consider 30-40% of anything a bundle). We wanted another RV for music festivals, a light bumper tow trailer. We shopped CW who quoted an MSRP of $22K and their price of $19,700. I shopped RV Trader and found the 2019 trailer for $17,500, $15,700, $14,500, and finally $12,930. Exact same trailer! So, we drove 600 miles to Ohio, bought it and towed it home. Look at the price disparity. Now, this was a small purchase but extrapolate those price differences over the range of RVs from $10k to $1.5 million or so. How could I expect to sell or trade any couple year old RV that I paid in the upper ranges to get and hope to break even on a long term loan when a shopper could find a brand new one for way less than I owe after a couple years of a 15 or 20 year note? Good economics for all of us would be to match the number of RVs produced to the likely number to be purchased. This would push the used RV market upward. Simple numbers: if their are 300 million of us in the U.S. and expected sales are 500 thousand a year, does that means 1 in 600 of us is anticipated to buy a new RV? Or is my math somehow really skewed??

Dry Creek

OK, for some reason the numbers just don’t add up.
When you buy an RV from CW, don’t they give you some type of Super Duper membership for one year? If they sold 104K units, but only netted 78K *new* members, does that imply that nearly 20K *current* members bought new units?

George Sears

I followed the link to the conference call. In a way Mr. Lemonis is very honest…

Camping World takes a $25,000 RV and when the customer drives off the lot CW has booked $33,000. They make $8500 in gross profit per unit. These are all averages. It’s no wonder that people are way underwater from the outset. There is no way to recover the $8500 you pay. I bought a TT online in 2010 for $12k. The dealer made some money, but nothing like that. Now the quality is so low you can’t just buy online.

There are two segments to the industry. The people who make the RV’s and supply them to dealers, and the dealers. CW is 1/5th of the dealer industry. They are huge. And Lemonis is frank about what he wants from the other side of the industry:

“Number one, you don’t get yourself in inventory trouble. I believe that as an industry, we got ourselves in trouble and that cost us dearly by having to liquidate that inventory. I think that’s step one. I think step two is we have to be more opportunistic and more strategic about what we’re buying on the new side and partner with manufacturers that are focused on turns and margins and not anything else. We think Thor, Winnebago, and Forest River are those companies.”

If you want higher quality or different designs, that isn’t what CW wants. They want stuff that moves and they want it at low margins. That’s all they want, ‘not anything else’. I don’t see how a small dealer can exert much pressure on ThoBerWin.

It’s interesting what Lemonis says about Gander. He wants to ‘bifurcate’ Gander. I guess that means Gander will look like a standalone operation, almost like a competitor to CW, another option. But, not really, since CW owns both.

The companies CW can ‘work with’, Thor, WGO, and Forest, throw out dozens of brands, but there are still only 3 manufacturers in that mix. Does Flagstaff really compete with Surveyor? So Gander and CW will be fake competition, and all the brands of Thor and FR will be more fake competition?

One last Marcus Lemonis quote:

“Our comprehensive network of assets and offerings allows us to engage with consumers in a variety of ways. We’re continuously developing ways to widen our customer funnel and increase our share of wallets across the RV and outdoor sector.”

This is not a customer focused business. I guess people should read the conference calls to understand exactly what motivates Lemonis. He has a lot of stock. If it goes way up, he makes billions. So you have one guy with a very narrow focus, apparently.

Charles Wehland

Whatever happened to the promised conversation between Chuck and Marcus?

sheryl Kinney

After this past year, I am no longer a fan of Camping World. Two people I know bought new campers, one was a very high end toy hauler. The trim fell off in various places and they refused to fix it under warranty. The other was a moderately priced bumper hitch. The slide seal leaks, they only used it twice. The slide out and floor are ruined. Again, no warranty coverage. Both had extended warranties and were less than a year old. This is not good for business, so perhaps they sell them and they get returned.

Captn John

Prices at CW are the lowest by far in a long distance at the location I use. Also at THIS location it has the best service although the highest priced service most of the time but not always. Purchase and install of a washer and a dryer was hundreds less than all others.

Patrick Granahan

Whenever I drive by a Camping World location I am amazed by the massive inventory of RVs on their lots…packed in so tight it seems that it would be almost impossible to remove one for a test drive or delivery.
I must ask how can they afford to carry such a massive inventory ?
Are RV manufacturers consigning these units without Camping World investing any
funds ? The lots are always full to maximum capacity. If they are paying for that inventory the investment must be astonishing !
It does not make sense to me unless the 20 year financing plans add to their profit picture
and somehow cover the cost of the massive inventory.

Strange business plan indeed !

Dan Kooienga

It would be interesting for you to do a poll with your readers on whether they are Democrats or Republicans. Knowing what the majority is could shed some light on their perspectives. This comes to me after reading about camping world and its struggles. Most people these days, preferred to buy direct and not be strong-armed by a large middleman. Just a thought.