In an effort to expedite delivery of some 30,000 units a year from RV manufacturers to Camping World Inc.’s 90-plus rolling stock stores, Camping World Inc. Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis says his Lincolnshire, Ill.-based company has decided to enter the RV transportation business — in a big way.
And although there are still plenty of details to be publicly fleshed out, CWRV Transport – in the planning stages for nine months now – has already done a wave of driver surveys in preparation for launching a billboard campaign this week (Aug. 12-16) around the RV building center of Elkhart, Ind., to begin recruiting drivers in anticipation of a “game-changing” Sept. 1 launch.
The new transport operation is exclusive right now to CW dealerships, but, Lemonis says, could include other independent retailers at a later date.
“We are getting into the transportation side of the business, the logistics business, for the single purpose of improving our inventory turns,” Lemonis, also CEO of Good Sam Enterprises LLC, told RVBUSINESS.com, sister website to Woodallscm.com. “So, today, it’s not anybody’s fault, but the process of getting inventory from the manufacturer to the dealer has really slowed up. And there’s a shortage of drivers, and there’s an increase in shipments.
“And when you have that confluence of issues, you know, we’re seeing delays that could be 10 to 15 days from the time the manufacturer actually has the unit ready to the time we get it.
“What that means for us is we’ll buy over the course of the year almost $800 million of inventory, and when we look at missing one week, that’s an appreciable cost. What we hope to do is cut the lead time from 14 days to seven or eight, and pick up that inventory, those dollars, and redeploy them at our new stores. We’re opening 11 new stores in the next eight months. And as we look at ways to better manage our company, we know that we have to cut down on the lead times between the manufacturer and us.”
In the final analysis, Lemonis claims CW’s bold move into RV transportation ought to relieve pressure on manufacturers, his dealers and the other transportation companies who are “being yelled at and harassed to get stuff delivered.”
A real key to the whole gameplan, meanwhile, is CW’s plan to recruit drivers all over the country through its 1.5 million Good Sam Club members as well as 4 million Camping World RV and parts & accessories customers to whom CW will offer decent remuneration, fuel discounts and memberships.
The end result, Lemonis added, should be a greater pool of drivers for the entire industry, including other transporters.
“It’s really a logistics business,” he said, “and what we’re doing is we’re providing a pool of people from the Good Sam Club and current customers of ours who are looking for work. Retirees are looking for work; they like to get out on their own. And we’re using our existing database to populate additional drivers for the industry.
“We think that Good Sam members and Camping World customers are perfect candidates for part-time transport work because they live the lifestyle – they understand it – and they’re always looking for something to do. So, we really thought it made sense to kind of bring the RV consumer and the RV transport company together.”
Although there will be an Elkhart office, Lemonis says Camping World is not setting up an entire infrastructure to facilitate its new transport initiative, but instead is “partnering with a number of people to kind of facilitate it.” He declined to discuss further details about how this whole thing might work from an operational standpoint.
“This whole process is being run by people who understand the transportation business, not by Lincolnshire or Bowling Green (where CW runs its parts and accessories business),” said Lemonis. “This is a process that’s being administered by people who know the space – out of Elkhart – people who know the transportation business and have really been recruited and positioned to help because shipments, in my view, are going to continue to go up.”