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Lazy Daze Builds Strong Customer Base Through Factory-Direct Approach

July 29, 2005 by   - () Leave a Comment

When product changes are made at minimotorhome manufacturer Lazy Daze Inc., Montclair, Calif., they are gradual.
“Whenever we change things, we are very careful not to disrupt the norm,” said Steve Newton, co-owner of Lazy Daze with his father, Ed Newton. “Several years ago we went to two-tone exterior colors, and although it’s well-accepted now, a lot of our customers just didn’t like it. They said it wasn’t ‘Lazy Daze’ anymore. So, we are very careful to not change the family heritage, so to speak, because that is what brought us to where we are. To obsolete our heritage would be to break a taboo.”
That doesn’t mean innovation is absent from Lazy Daze, a venerable Los Angeles-area company that dates back to the industry’s earliest years. The 49-year-old company, which sells factory direct, has been offering full-body paint on its RVs for nearly 50 years. And Newton recently made LCD TVs standard in Lazy Daze coaches, and a solar-powered electric system is now available as an option.
Ed Newton’s late brother, Paul, founded Lazy Daze in 1956 in what was then rural Pomona, Calif. In 1964, Ed bought into the company, and in 1979 Ed’s son, Steve, began working there as well.
Steve Newton acquired Paul Newton’s share of the business when Paul retired in 2002.
“I started at the bottom and ended up owning it,” he said, “but that was always my intention.”
The decision to sell to consumers only from the factory was made early, even though industry veterans scoffed at the idea.
“Back in the 1960s, Art Rouse (founder of Trailer Life magazine) told my dad that he would never sell any coaches without dealers,” Newton said. “But they built a better mousetrap in those days and sold it for equal or less than the competition.
“We are probably one of the few factory-direct companies left. The main benefits are price and quality. We don’t have any transportation or dealer costs. We can use that portion of the cost of a coach to increase quality. That means we can sell a less-expensive, higher quality coach than a dealer could sell.”
Lazy Daze’s market has changed.
“We sell all over the country,” Newton said. “It used to be that we sold almost everything in California, but with the Internet, that has changed tremendously. More people are aware of our product than we could reach previously.”
The company also has benefited, he said, from informal Lazy Daze clubs organized by Lazy Daze loyalists in Northern California, Oregon, Texas and on the East Coast.
“People who buy our motorhomes have researched rather extensively, whether they have talked to owners or compared our units to others out in the field,” Newton said. “We have some local people who will come in here four or five times before they make a purchase. The more they look at someone else, the better we look, because there is no comparison on quality and price.”
And quality can come in different forms, he added. “When people look at our product, build quality is always a big factor,” Newton said. “The walls are solid, the cabinets are solid. Our coaches are durable, and people know they are.”
Lazy Daze’s best marketing is in the campgrounds when owners speak of the coach’s virtues around campfires, Newton said.
Newton said Lazy Daze considers its competition to be other North American niche minimotorhome manufacturers.
“The big guys aren’t selling the same product that we are building,” he said. “For every guy we have working for us, they probably have 10. But we have a very skilled crew and very skilled management who can match what it would take a couple of guys to do at a larger place.”
Lazy Daze attends only one show a year — the RVIA-sponsored California RV Show in Pomona because the cost to attend other shows would be prohibitive for a company its size. Typically, Lazy Daze keeps things simple. For instance, not one of the firm’s floorplans is equipped with slideouts and probably never will be. “I don’t want to get involved in the liability issues,” Newton said.
Also, for more than four decades, the only option available on a Lazy Daze coach was a generator. Now generators are standard, and a handful of options — most dealing with entertainment systems — are available.
“As time went along we had a transition among the people who are buying Lazy Daze,” Newton said. “Baby Boomer buyers want all the gadgets and gizmos that they can find, and in most cases, they are willing to pay for it.”
Now, popular options include solar panel setups, in-dash 10-disc CD players and satellite TV systems.
Lazy Daze minimotorhomes are sold in Japan through Bonanza RV, an RV dealership in Tokyo.
“It’s not a big-dollar market, but we made a commitment and have an obligation and gave … an exclusive arrangement,” Newton said. “When we first starting selling in Japan, we didn’t hear much from our customers and I wondered why.
“When I made a trip over there, I quickly learned that no news is good news in Japan. They expect a certain level of quality, and if it reaches that level, you don’t hear about it. But if the quality isn’t what they think it should be, you’ll hear about it plenty.”

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