Tampa RV SuperShow Takes Industry Pulse
The number of people buying tickets for last week’s 23rd Annual Florida RV SuperShow established a first-day record at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, but then traffic tailed off under the threat of bad weather the rest of the week.
Nonetheless, attendance of 48,700 for the Jan. 16-20 show – often seen as a bellwether for the spring selling season in the South – was off by fewer than 400 compared to 2007, and dealers and manufacturers reported steady sales.
“The show wasn’t that strong, but it was still good,” said Lance Wilson, executive director for the sponsoring Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA), which has a dozen other regional RV shows lined up in Florida through April.
According to Winnebago Industries Inc. Chairman and CEO Bruce Hertzke, the fact that people showed up for the event during turbulent economic times was notable
“I can’t say that buying was strong, but we heard that traffic was good,” Hertzke said. “There’s nothing worse than losing your traffic. We know we have buyers out there; we just have to get the market conditions right.”
Some 66 Florida dealers representing 130 manufacturers showed 1,312 units during the show. About 1,000 industry representatives registered for a trade-only showing Jan. 15, and a record number of 450 vendors set up booths at the accompanying expo. Attendant to the show, FRVTA registered 870 rigs in a campground adjacent to the fairgrounds.
“It was a good show for us,” said Fran Roberts CEO of Long View RV Superstores with outlets in Tampa, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. “I think it’s going to be a great year if your mind-set is to have a great year.”
Roberts said Long View sold 49 units during the show and that the trend toward downsizing among consumers was apparent. “Phoenix van sales were phenomenal,” Roberts said. “People are downsizing, but we sold our share of Class A’s also.”
Ryan Hollan, sales manager for Harberson RV Pasco, Holiday, Fla., termed the Florida RV SuperShow “successful for us.”
“We wrote 21 (Itasca) deals,” Hollan said. “The buyer is still out there. If anything was off, it was the mid-range gas units – $150,000 and up.”
Keith Chappell, sales manager of Leisure Tyme RV, Fort Walton Beach, said he sold the only two Newmar Essex gas-powered Class A motorhomes that he took to the show. “And I feel like we’ve got two other real solid leads coming in,” said Chappell, who added that the Federal Reserve Board’s reduction in a key interest rate is likely to spur post-show sales.
“I already have started focusing my advertising dollars on the fact that rates are dropping,” Chappell said. “I came out of the show feeling extremely successful.”
The 2008 show was only the second time since 1996 that Lazydays RV Center Inc., in nearby Seffner, the nation’s largest single-site dealership, has participated. “Considering the weather and economic situation at the time, we were pleased with the traffic. We continue to be optimistic about 2008,” said Stewart Shaffer, Lazydays chief marketing officer, commenting the day after the Federal Reserve Board lowered key interest rates by 0.75%. “Lightweight towables, toy haulers and Class C’s have been opportunity areas for us, and the first-time buyers.”
Brian Shea, president of Nappanee, Ind.-based Gulf Stream Inc.’s motorized division, said the builder sold 32 motorcoaches during the show – two more than last year – and that most consumers he talked to had positive attitudes.
“Many are retired and have their plans,” Shea said. “The short-term economic situation didn’t seem to be that much of a concern to them. I was surprised that we did a good number of Class A’s.”
On the towable side, Gulf Stream sold 48 units, up 15% from the 2007 Florida RV SuperShow. “We consider it a pretty good show,” said Dan Shea, president of Gulf Stream’s towable division. “We’ve had several pretty good shows recently – Minneapolis/St. Paul and Pittsburgh, particularly.”