Florida RV SuperShow Good Camping Bellwether
If you want to know which direction the economy is heading, some suggest you don't need to look any further than Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa this week, WTSP-TV, Tampa, Fla., reported
That's the site of the annual RV SuperShow, and there's more than just anecdotal evidence that what happens there could predict what happens to your 401k.
After all, as a pure indulgence of expendable income, recreational vehicles are often viewed as an economic indicator. It can be a gauge of consumer confidence.
"RV's have always typically been the first to get hit and are the first to recover at the end of a recession," said Dave Kelly, marketing director for this year's show, "And we're seeing that already."
The 2012 SuperShow has RVs of just about every make, every size and every lifestyle. From fifth-wheels starting at around $7,500 to mobile mansions.
The $2.3 million Featherlight Ventari, for example, comes with with big screen TVs, heated wood floors, two bathrooms, a stackable washer-dryer, high-end appliances, top-tier luxury materials for furniture, countertops and cabinets, and an iPad interface that controls everything. It's all the comforts of home… if your other home is a palace.
Nina Suchecki, a show visitor, was impressed.
"You can go everywhere in that! Why buy an apartment and then have to stay in motels and whatever (when you travel)?"
In 2011, RV sales were up about 2%. In 2012, buyers say a couple of factors could effect the slow, but steady, rebound.
Alan Norris, who just bought an RV two weeks ago, pointed to two things: "If you can lower fuel prices and lower interest rates, there'd be more on the road."
So who is buying?
Industry figures show retirees with Baby Boomer benefits and cash continue be the steadiest market. But the fastest growing segment, they say, is people in their mid 30s.
That describes Frank and Tara Tagliarini from Plant City, who have a 5-year-old son. Frank says he likes the social aspect of camping, and Tara says it gives them more time to concentrate on what counts.
"I believe you spend more family time this way," she said, "and it's more about being together and not in the atmosphere of being in the hotel."
That may, in part, explain the theme of this year's show: "Take Another Look." Organizers are urging families — not just the upwardly mobile — to go mobile.
This year's SuperShow runs through Sunday at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.