Allen Camper Thrives in Small Niche
With 34 floorplans in its Idle-Time travel trailer, fifth-wheel and park model lines, Allen Camper Manufacturing Co. Inc., Allen, Okla., is a small regional manufacturer with a flexible attitude.
“One of the bigger things that attracts people to Idle-Time is that we can do specialty things that the larger manufacturers can’t or aren’t willing to do,” said Allen Camper President Jerry Peay. “We can add or delete windows or add or delete cabinetry or move a wall. We can make changes that on a regular production line would be awfully hard to do.”
Allen Camper has been manufacturing RVs since 1958, when company founder E.C. Peay started to build cab-over truck campers and pickup caps.
After a brief foray into manufactured homes that didn’t work out, the company expanded in 1981 into travel trailers and fifth-wheels. Sons Jerry, Dale and Tommy took over the company when the elder Peay phased himself into retirement in the early 1980s.
After building truck campers for nearly 25 years, the company evolved as the RVer evolved, Peay said. “The biggest change for our company is that demand for truck campers is much less now than it was 20 years ago. People want more convenience and more room. It’s harder to put more things in a little box than it is a big box.”
Allen Camper markets Idle-Time primarily in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico through about 20 dealers.
“Most of our customers are average RVers, and 75% of them are going to be 55 or older,” Peay said. “We don’t have too many who are full-time RVers. We have a lot of lakes around here and that’s where people go to use them.”
Idle-Time comprises 14 travel-trailer, 16 fifth-wheel and four widebody park-model floorplans, but only about 10% leave Allen Camper’s factory 100 miles southeast of Oklahoma City as originally designed. A substantial majority – upwards of 90% – are customized in minor or major ways.
For 2003, Idle-Time will offer a new travel trailer and two new fifth-wheels, all with additional interior and exterior storage. “That’s probably one of the biggest changes that we’ve seen in trailers,” Peay said. “Almost everybody wants more storage. We are adding what we call semi-basements.”
Allen Camper designates as light-weight five fifth-wheel and four travel-trailer floorplans that are built narrower on smaller frames with smaller tires and wheels.
Idle-Time production averages 25 to 40 truck campers and 200 travel trailers and fifth-wheels a year.
The company’s flexibility also allows it to fill niches left by other manufacturers. “I’ve got an order on one right now that is a trailer similar to what two or three other manufacturers are building. But we can build it with a bedroom slide, and the others can’t. When dealers run into something like that, they turn to us, rather than lose the sale. “We are close in price on most trailers in the low- to medium-price range.
“And we have a personal relationship with our dealers. If they have a problem, they know who to call. They know where the buck stops.”
As one of Oklahoma’s few RV manufacturers, Peay said there are pluses and minuses to being distant from northern Indiana – the nation’s RV manufacturing hub.
“The big problem is we have to inventory a lot more component parts and need more lead time to order parts,” Peay said. “And we have to do our own subassembly.”
Conversely, transportation costs to nearby Texas and points southwest aren’t as high. “We have a big advantage in freight costs to the south and to the west, and that’s where most of our units go,” Peay said.