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KOA Adds Forest River To Cabin Builder List

Forest River Inc. of Elkhart, Ind., is the newest approved provider for KOA Deluxe Cabins, according to Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Senior Business Development Consultant and Cabin Program Manager Mike Atkinson.

"Adding Forest River to our line of approved cabin suppliers adds healthy competition and increases the purchasing options for our campground owners, while maintaining the quality of deluxe cabins being added to the KOA system," Atkinson said in a written announcement from KOA.

Other approved deluxe cabin suppliers include Cavco Industries and General Coach of Canada.

Kampgrounds of America now has 2,200 KOA Deluxe Cabins — which include full bathrooms and some kitchens — located at more than 334 KOAs in North America.

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Forest River Overtook Thor for Top RV Spot

Pete Liegl, CEO of Forest River Inc., at an RV Open House event. The company has supplanted Thor Industries Inc. as the top U.S. RV retailer.

Forest River Inc. is the top U.S. RV retailer for the first seven months of 2013, based on July retail sales figures released Friday (Sept. 20) by Statistical Surveys Inc., the company reports.

This includes recreational vehicles marketed under the Forest River, Coachmen, Palomino, Shasta, Dynamax and Prime Time brand names, but does not include Class B van campers, a relatively small market niche in terms of total sales.

The Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, meanwhile, announced that it has expanded its lead retailing position in conventional motorhomes.

“In all products combined (motorhomes and towables), Forest River Inc. ranks No. 1 with 34.4% market share, representing 7.4% market share growth year-to-date over the same period last year,” Forest River stated in a Friday press release. “Thor Industries ranked second with 33.9% market share and Jayco Inc. third with 10.8% market share.”

In Class A and C motorhomes, the company added, Forest River ranks No. 1 with a 25.5% market share, Thor second with 24.6% and Winnebago Industries Inc. third with an 18.3% market share. However, Statistical Surveys National RV Sales Manager Scott Stropkai points out, Thor still ranks first in all motorhomes if Class B’s are counted.

In consolidated towables, Elkhart-based Forest River ranks first with a 35.5% market share, while Thor is second with 35.1% and Jayco third with 11.4%.

“While we are certainly pleased to earn the No. 1 position in the RV industry, we are humbled by this accomplishment and remain focused on the continuous improvement of our products and services,” commented Pete Liegl, president and CEO of Forest River. “Our commitment to the satisfaction of our retail owners and to providing the absolute best value in the RV Industry has only strengthened with our success.”

Forest River, in addition to RVs, is a leading manufacturer of pontoon boats, cargo trailers and buses.

 

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July Towable RV Sales Up 21.5%; YTD 13.6%

Year-over-year retail towable sales gained 21.5% in July, while registrations for the first seven months showed a 13.6% increase. Every towable segment was up for the month while all but folding camping trailers recorded double-digit growth.

According to the latest report from Statistical Surveys Inc. as reported by RVBUSINESS.COM, results showed:

  • Sales for the high-volume travel trailer sector grew 24.2% in July and 15% for the seven months.
  • Fifth-wheel registrations rose 16.8% for the month and 14.1% year-to-date.
  • Folding camping trailer sales were up 4.4% in July, but dipped 2.2% year-to-date.
  • Recreational park trailer sales increased 32% for the month, but were down 9.6% year-to-date.

Thor Industries Inc. was the towable sales leader through the July with a 35.1% market share, followed by Forest River Inc. at 22.6% and Jayco Inc. with an 11.4% share.

By segment, Thor was No. 1 in travel trailer sales with a 32.4% share for the first seven months, ahead of Forest River (22.9%) and Jayco (13.2%). Thor held a commanding lead in fifth-wheel sales, capturing a 49.5% market share, while Forest River posted an 18.6% share and Palomino RV held a 6.7% share.

Forest River was the folding camping trailer sales leader for the seven months with a 44% market share while Jayco (17.3%) held the No. 2 position followed by Forest River’s Coachmen RV division (14.3%). In the park model segment, Thor was No. 1, posting a 22.2% market share, with Kropf Manufacturing Co. Inc. No. 2 at 10.9% followed by Skyline Corp. with a 9.9% share.

To subscribe to this or other SSI reports, contact Scott Stropkai, national RV sales manager, at (616) 281-9898 ext. 128, or (616) 446-8179 (cell).

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Forest River and Thor in a Mid-Year Dead Heat

August 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Tom Walworth

For the first time in memory, the industry’s two RV-building volume leaders, Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc., are in a dead heat for retail market share in both towable and motorized RVs, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.

At least they were at mid-year, with the two Elkhart, Ind.-based manufacturers each occupying exactly 35.4% of the “all towable” market. In fact, they were only nine units apart through June – Thor at 39,803 units vs. Forest River at 39,794. At the same time, Thor’s towable RV unit sales were up 8.8% and its market share was down slightly to 1.7%, while Forest River’s unit sales were up 19.5% and its market share grew 8% for the six-month period.

The picture is much the same on the motorized side of the ledger because Forest River through June was accounting for 25.2% of the retail market based on sales of 3,769 units vs. Thor with a 25% market share on 3,747 retails — a margin of only 22 units.

The rather respectable — yet heated — competition between these two hard-hitting industry leaders, occupying together more than 70% of the U.S. towable marketplace, has been going on for a good while. But the numbers haven’t been quite this close, keeping in mind that, as Stat Surveys President Tom Walworth points out, “you still have to take into account the fact that Forest River’s towable RV product lines include some lower-priced folding camping trailers, a market in which Thor isn’t involved.”

But the real news here is to what extent Forest River is pressing its case in both towable and motorized RVs, even while both companies continue to post impressive growth during the current economic recovery. Thor, for its part, recently posted its first $2 billion quarter, and revenues for Forest River, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary, were running at least 22% ahead of last year through June, Forest River President and CEO Pete Liegl confirms.

“I think that Forest River has been narrowing the gap,” said Walworth. “Both Forest River and Thor have aggressively gone after the market and they’ve put out a bunch of new product that has allowed them both to maintain their leadership in the market.”

Behind Forest River and Thor on the motorized side is Winnebago Industries Inc., with an 18.1% share of the market. In third place in tow-type RV retail sales is Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco Inc., which occupied 11.2% of the market through June.

“Think about that,” said Walworth. “The top two (towable builders) are 70% of the market. Jayco brings it up to 81% of the market and the next five players take it up to 90% of the market. I mean, it’s a very top-heavy industry and more so all the time. The two big players have gained market share in an up market. The only thing to consider is that if the market becomes really hot, that usually opens the doors for the smaller startups to come in.

He added, “You know, through this, we’ll probably introduce one or two new manufacturers here who could someday end up being major ones. That’s usually because the majors and the other competitors can’t meet the dealers’ supply times, opening the door for some of the startups to get involved.”

 

 

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Forest River Inc.'s FROG Club Growing Quickly

August 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

FROG members gather at rally.

Anyone who thought that the best days for America’s brand-name RV clubs might be in the rear-view mirror ought to have stopped by the 2nd Annual Forest River Owners Group (FROG) International Rally last week (Aug. 4-10) at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind.

The place was cooking – literally and figuratively – as some 730 members of one of the nation’s youngest and fastest growing RV owner organizations converged in 354 towable and motorized units. The popular fairgrounds are located in close proximity to Elkhart County’s RV-building hub and within easy driving range of several divisional facilities operated by Forest River Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary and the nation’s second-ranking RV builder.

While those attendance numbers may not have set rally records, they take on a special meaning when considering that the club was launched – at the suggestion of Forest River President & CEO Pete Liegl – less than two years ago.

“It was an extremely successful week all the way around,” reported FROG Executive Bob Byrne on Friday night (Aug. 9) as he prepared for the rally’s finale concert. That’s pretty much the way things have gone since Day One for the upstart FROG Club.

“It’s been unbelievably rapid growth,” exclaimed Forest River General Manager Doug Gaeddert, current chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) board of directors, “I mean zero to 120 mph in about four seconds.”

“We’re really excited,” said Byrne, who, with support from his wife, Cindy, and a host of volunteers oversees the club’s rallies and other activities as a full-time Forest River staff member. “We’re just a little over a year and a half old and, as of last week, our membership had rolled over the 20,000 family member mark already. Last year we had our first rally here in Elkhart. We had 208 units, so we’re up about 70% over that this year, and we’re just really excited about that number.”

Forest River’s FROG Club Posting Strong Growth.

Fact is, the FROG Club’s members pretty much took over the sprawling fairgrounds for the week as they socialized at daily breakfast buffets and attended seminars on photography and quilting as well as proprietary sessions led by companies like Lippert Components Inc., ASA Electronics, Girard Systems and Blue Ox. They took chartered buses tours to Forest River plants as well as some of the area’s Amish tourist destinations like Middlebury’s Das Dutchmen Essenhaus restaurant before returning to the fairgrounds for Nelson’s Golden Glow chicken.

“We pretty much took up all the space (at the fairgrounds),” reported Byrne, who plans to lead 15 to 20 couples on an RV-style caravan out West before returning in mid-September in time for Elkhart’s 6th Annual RV Open House Week.

“We had to move into the largest building on the fairgrounds for our dinners and entertainment,” he told RVBUSINESS.com. “We also had a big variety of seminars, over two dozen of them. We’ve had about 32 or 33 vendors and the really key thing that we’re doing as far as Pete’s (Pete Liegl’s) and Forest River’s commitment to service is that we’re providing free factory service to anybody who let’s us know that they have a problem.

“When they registered,” added Byrne, “they had a chance to submit information about issues about their RV, and then they could add to or modify those lists when they got here. And we’re taking care of those people at absolutely no cost – warranty or no warranty — it doesn’t matter. It’s a phenomenal service. It’s something that Pete committed to last year and we’re expanding and broadening it this year. We have 50 to 60 techs from all of our plants around northern Indiana on the fairgrounds every day throughout this week. Plus, a number of vendors are also contributing technicians and services to make sure that all of our members are taken care of.”

 

 

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Current Briefs from RV Parks and Campgrounds

Aerial view of Forest River Inc. dealer meeting in Elkhart, Ind., in 2009.

INDIANA

From The Elkhart Truth:

The first half of 2013 was a very good period for the recreational vehicle industry as a whole, but it was even better for Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., as the company reported that sales were up 22% in the first half of the year.

That's one of the scant details made public about its operations when parent company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. filed its quarterly financial report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Over the first six months of 2013, Forest River generated a 22% increase in revenues due to increased volume and average sales prices,” the company reported in the filing.

Forest River and Berkshire Hathaway’s building products businesses generated higher earnings in the first half of this year than last year.

To read the entire report click here.

CALIFORNIA

From The Sacramento Bee:

California State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, hopes Senate Bill 256 will make trampoline parks safer. If passed, his bill would regulate the construction, maintenance and operation of trampoline parks with the goal of increasing safety.

Click here to read the entire story.

ILLINOIS

From a news release:

The board of directors of Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. declared a dividend of $0.25 per common share, representing, on an annualized basis, a dividend of $1.00 per common share (adjusted for stock split). The dividend will be paid on Oct. 11 to stockholders of record on Sept. 27.

The board also declared a dividend of $0.421875 per depositary share (each representing 1/100 of a share of our 6.75% Series C Cumulative Redeemable Perpetual Preferred Stock), which represents, on an annualized basis, a dividend of $1.6875 per depositary share. The dividend will be paid on Sept. 30 to stockholders of record on Sept. 20.

NEW YORK

From the Leader-Herald, Gloversville:

A Broadalbin marina owner and member of the town planning board was killed Monday (Aug. 5) in what Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey described as a "freak" lawnmower accident at the man's business.

Lorey said Lauren R. McMurray, 65, died from a neck injury in the accident about 4:15 p.m. at his marina and campground off Lakeview Road. A neighbor called 911 to report the accident.

"He was mowing the grass with a garden tractor and was pinned between a camper and a protective bar on the tractor," Lorey said.

Lorey said McMurray was operating a zero-turn lawn mower near a large camper.

"He made an attempt to mow under the camper and the safety roll bar got stuck on the camper, causing the wheels of the lawn mower to raise into the air," the sheriff said.

He said the mower's engine speed increased and McMurray became "wedged" between the mower and the camper. Lorey said the victim was found pinned between the mower – with its engine still on and tipped downward – and the camper. Lorey said the "safety" roll bar was a contributing factor in the incident.

Click here to read the entire story.

IOWA

From the Sioux City Journal:

Preliminary work on a $1 million campground at Bacon Creek Park has started. Construction was delayed earlier this year over budget issues.

The campground is planned on 84 acres of city-owned land east and north of the 239-acre park, at 5015 Correctionville Road.

Plans call for spaces for tent camping and places to park recreational vehicles.

It would be the first of its kind operated in Sioux City. The park already has two shelters, a dog park, playgrounds and other amenities

Click here to read the entire story.

From the Forest City Summit:

There has always been a relationship between the Puckerbrush festival in Forest City, Iowa, and members of the Winnebago Itasca Travelers (WIT) club who come to the city each summer for the WIT Grand National Rally.

That relationship will be much more formal next year as WIT will start earlier in July than it has in prior years.

Winnebago Industries Inc. has scheduled the event for July 16-20, the same days as the annual Puckerbrush Festival in Forest City. For many years, the WIT GNR started on a Sunday and ran through the week to a Friday conclusion. Puckerbrush has traditionally started the Thursday before WIT’s opening ceremony on a Sunday.

“It’s positive for the members of our WIT Club, it’s positive for the company and it’s positive for the community,” said Chad Reece, director of marketing for Winnebago. “We believe it will bring more people in.”

The 2014 edition, marking Winnebago’s 45th year of operation, will feature an “Out of This World” theme as the rally coincides with NASA’s historic Apollo lunar landing mission and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.

 

 

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Gaeddert Shoots Straight at Power Breakfast

RVIA Chairman Doug Gaeddert addresses the RVBusiness "RV Power Breakfast" on May 9 in Elkhart, Ind.

Along with the omelets and pork sausages in the buffet line, Doug Gaeddert, chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and a general manager of Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., served up some straight-shooting opinions in his remarks during the RV Power Breakfast, May 9 at the Northern Indiana Event Center, a part of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart.

Here’s a few highlights from Gaeddert, who served with Dicor President Gregg Fore as a co-emcee:

Current shipment vitality: “Total shipments for the first three months of 2009 were approximately 30,500 units compared with 79,422 units for the January through March period of this year. That’s a whopping 160% jump. So, if you feel like you’ve been running faster and working harder – you have been and that’s great for all of us. It’s also great for the local communities in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. We’re all somewhat joined at the hip and the positive ripple effect has been felt by nearly everyone – even the local, state and federal governments who seem to be constantly complaining about revenue.”

Blue skies hover over Hershey, Pa., site of the nation's largest retail RV show.

Hershey Show & the Open House:“Not as RVIA chairman or a long-term Forest River-Pete Liegl guy, but as an industry guy, I think the Open House Week, as it has come to be known, has been a positive for the industry and hits at a perfect time. While negatively impacting the Dealer Days of Hershey, whose wholesale value has steadily declined anyhow over the years, it has more than made up for it by further enhancing the retail portion of the show. With the Open Houses immediately following Hershey, the number of dealers attending the Pennsylvania Show from outside the market who don’t show product has declined, but most, if not all of the products being displayed at Hershey, are now what’s ‘new’ for the upcoming year. This gives retail customers the opportunity to get the first look and actually purchase new industry offerings. This is something that can’t be duplicated anywhere else in North America.

Entertainment tent at the Forest River Inc. display during an Elkhart Open House.

“Becky Lenington and the folks at the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association (PRVCA) have done an awesome job of developing Hershey into one of the most outstanding retail shows on the continent. They draw people from a wider geographic area and in larger numbers than ever before, and dealers sell a ton of product. This has become, in my opinion, a destination show of the highest quality. I’m not going to get drawn into a comparison though of it versus Tampa or Pomona. They’re all tremendous shows!

“Hershey kicks off the fall schedule and Louisville effectively closes it. Post-Louisville surveys over the last couple of years have shown that the majority of dealers participating will continue to go to the Open Houses and will continue to attend Louisville – and don’t want to change the time frames of either. Seems pretty simple: They like both of the events as well as the timing. Obviously it’s not unanimous, but it’s an overwhelming majority. With that being said, I predict a certain degree of consolidation will occur among these other fall events, just as it has occurred in other sectors of the industry over the last few years. Nature will take its course over time, but nobody will successfully force it.”

The Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., site of the RV industry's annual trade show.

RVIA’s Louisville Show: “Although industry shipments have been rising rapidly over the last few years, the number of OEMs, suppliers and dealer/owners has shrunk by around a third. With an approximate 33% reduction of players in these key categories, not even taking the campground ownership consolidation into consideration, why in the world would you expect attendance at this show to have grown? In my opinion, Louisville has hit the leveling-out point, and with possible further industry consolidation ahead, I don’t see it growing significantly, but I do see it remaining steady and continuing to grow in value.”

RV-Specific Legislation: “Cars and RVs shouldn’t operate according to the same rules. As our industry continues to grow, mature and consolidate, I believe it will become even more important that we see RV-specific legislation replace automotive legislation in those states in which we as an industry are governed by car laws. Oklahoma is an excellent recent example of a win/win/win for our industry by everyone working successfully together to get RV-specific law into place. RV manufacturers, RV dealers and RV suppliers deserve to play by rules specific to our industry. We are the RV industry, not the car industry – and proud of it.”

RV Transportation Issues: “One challenge which the industry seems to face every year in the spring is a shortage of finished goods transportation availability. As many of you are aware, this sector is currently struggling to keep up and will be until at least the first week of July. We are attempting a new and different approach by utilizing RVIA’s resources to see if we can’t help smooth it out for the long haul.

“RVIA is exploring several possible strategies in hopes of being able to positively impact the RV transportation sector for both the United States and Canada. No promises at this point, other than we are diligently working on it. If successful, however, it will be too late to affect spring and summer of 2013. We hope to be able to help the industry improve the peak shipping periods of 2014.”

Credit Availability:“I think it is crucial our industry — which includes all of us — remains disciplined in our approach to credit. Solid practices are one of the keys to our growth remaining real and sustainable. If we slip back into the same lax practices the industry utilized in 2008, we’ll end up with the same result. 2009 reminded me of a fastball I once threw that was hit back at me a hell of a lot faster than I threw it, resulting in my second broken nose and a busted tooth! Let’s not throw that same fastball as an industry again!”

Bob Martin (left), president of Thor Industries Inc., talks with Doug Gaeddert, general manager of Forest River Inc., prior to last week's RV Power Breakfast in Elkhart, Ind. The two men oversee the RV industry's two largest firms, producing bllions of dollars in RVs annually.

Industry Relationships: “Probably the single coolest thing to me about being involved in the RV Industry for all of these years is the people. Take a minute to look around the room. Most of us compete with each other, sell to each other, buy from each other, finance each other, represent each other, write about each other and, yeah, probably even cuss at each other sometimes. But at the end of the day, we’re also basically good friends. It’s a close-knit industry that, while growing rapidly, is also getting smaller at the same time.”

The Power Breakfast was sponsored by RVBusiness magazine, sister publication to Woodall's Campground Management and www.woodallscm.com.

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Forest River Inc.'s 2nd Rally is Aug. 4-10

The Forest River Owners’ Group (FROG) will hold its 2nd Annual FROG International Rally Aug. 4-10 at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind., according to a press release.

FROG Director Bob Byrne reported that the event will feature six nights of camping, 10 meals, live entertainment, plant tours along with factory service. In addition, participants will have the option of participating in any of five Amish Country tours.

“Last year’s inaugural FROG International Rally was a tremendous success,” Byrne reported. “With over three months to go, registrations are already 25% ahead of last year’s total, and more are arriving every day. We’re looking forward to a wonderful time and a really exciting event again this year.”

FROG has seen strong growth from its inception at the beginning of 2012, and now includes over 16,000 registered member families. Over the past year it has organized and conducted to Washington, D.C.; La Belle, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; Branson, Mo.; Wisconsin Dells, Wis.; Tucson, Ariz.; Las Vegas; Grand Canyon, Ariz.; and Albuquerque, N.M.

Still on tap for this year are Niagara Falls, Ontario.; Colorado Springs; Grand Teton National Park; Yellowstone National Park; the Black Hills; and a return to Charleston, W. Va. Locally organized events have also been held or are scheduled in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Oregon, Oklahoma and Texas.

Byrne noted there are still spaces available for vendors at the FROG rally. Interested vendors can contact him for information at (574) 825-8532, or by e-mail at frog@forestriverinc.com.

More information and registration forms for the FROG Rally are available on the group’s website, www.forestriverfrog.com. Visitors to the site can either click on the “FROG Rally” button, or go to the “FROG Rallies and Trips” page.

 

 

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OEMs Providing Park Models, Cabins & Yurts

February 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

This photo, courtesy of Cavco Industries Inc., is on the cover of February Woodall's Campground Management and depicts a park model resort in jackson Hole, Wyo.

Editor's Note: The final portion of the park model, cabin and yurt presentation in the February issue of Woodall's Campground Management appears below.

Athens Park Homes LLC

2013 Focus: Athens Park Homes is ramping up its park model construction across the country following its July 2012 acquisition by Troy, Mich.-based Champion Home Builders, which operates park model manufacturing facilities in Chandler, Ariz.; Weiser, Idaho; York, Neb.; Athens, Texas; Sangerfield, N.Y.; Lillington, N.C.; and Lake City, Fla. “Right now, pretty much all of the plants have built one or two models,” said Dick Grymonprez, Athens’ director of national park model sales. He said the variety of manufacturing plants across the country will help Athens offer more competitive prices to private park operators and consumers. “We had shipped to 37 states before the Champion acquisition,” he said. “But now we’re able to build the Athens Park brand closer to where the user is. We’re also able to buy materials at better prices because of Champion’s buying power, so we can build park models for less money.”

Background: Athens Park Homes was founded in September 2004 by a group of investors spearheaded by manufactured housing veteran Phil Surles, who was a former COO of Troy, Mich.-based Champion Enterprises, the parent company of Champion Home Builders.

Management: Phil Surles, president

Contact Information:3401 Corsicana St., Athens, TX 75751; (903) 677-0108; fax (903) 677-0118; www.athensparkhomes.com

Athens Park Homes looks for continued growth in 2013 of its park model business under new ownership by Champion Homes.

Dutch Park Homes Inc.

2013 Focus: Dutch Park signed up several new dealers at the Louisville show and is expanding its reach across the country. “We think we have the best fit and finish and quality in the park model industry,” said sales manager Larry Weaver, adding that the company is continuing to make “fit and finish and quality” its focus areas in 2013 along with a stepped up marketing of its rental products to campgrounds.

Background: Dutch Park Homes was founded in 1999. Omer Kropf purchased the company in October 2003. The company recently relocated to a different manufacturing facility in Goshen, about a half-mile from its original plant.

Dutch Park Homes takes pride in its fit and finish.

Management: Kermit Kropf, president

Contact Information: 2249 Lincolnway East, Goshen, IN 46526; (574) 533-8090; fax (574) 533-8210; www.dutchpark.com

Breckenridge

2013 Focus: Breckenridge is stepping up its production of rental units for the campground industry. “We’ve been a partner of KOA (Kampgrounds of America Inc.) and LSI (Leisure Systems, Inc.) and we’ve sold our share of rental products to those companies. We also do quite a bit of business with independent campgrounds,” said Bob Phillips, Breckenridge’s general manager. He said production of rental units for campgrounds is a good way to help private parks broaden their business base, while also introducing consumers to park models. “If we can get folks interested in going to campgrounds and spending time in rental units, some may make an investment in park models as a second home,” Phillips said. With this in mind, Breckenridge is continuing to develop even more luxurious interiors.

Background: Tim Howard founded Breckenridge on Sept. 23, 1991, as a stand-alone division of Damon Corp. with about eight to 10 employees, several of whom had worked with Howard at Mallard Coach Corp., another Nappanee park model company. Breckenridge continued to operate as a Damon division until Thor Industries acquired Damon in 2003. Howard retired Feb. 1, 2012. Bob Phillips, whom Howard hired as his first employee, now manages the company. “I was his director of engineering for 19 years,” Phillips said.

Management: Bob Phillips, general manager

Contact Information: 656 North Delaware, Nappanee, IN 46550; (574) 773-5353; fax (574) 773-2124; www.breckenridgefinerliving.com

Cavco Industries Inc.

2013 Focus: Cavco is continuing to position its product innovations with several soon-to-be-announced park model products that will be industry firsts. “I think innovation is what has kept Cavco in the game,” said Tim Gage, Cavco’s national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products. “We’re being really innovative on working with the new developers of campgrounds or resorts, whether it’s on the East Coast or West Coast. We’re creating some awesome exteriors and concepts that keep us one step ahead. The interest continues from developers and campground owners with requests for larger volume weekend getaway cabins and cottages. People seem to be staying close to home and want above-average accommodations.”

Background: Cavco started producing park models in the early 1990s and began offering cabins and cottages in 2001. Cavco continues to be an industry leader and has continued to grow its market share and competitive edge by acquiring other companies, including Palm Harbor Homes, Fleetwood and Nationwide Homes, which provide Cavco with the ability to produce park models in every region of the country. Cavco currently produces park models in Phoenix and Goodyear, Ariz.; Seguin, Texas; Nampa, Idaho; Woodburn, Ore; Rocky Mount, Va.; Martinsville, Va.; Riverside, Calif.; Millersburg, Ore.; and Plant City, Fla.

Management: Tim Gage, national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products

Contact Information: 1001 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004; Phone: 602-763-5488; fax (623) 882-2845; www.parkmodels.com, www.cavco.com and www.fleetwoodparkhomes.com

Chariot Eagle model with kitchen and hutch.

Chariot Eagle Inc.

2013 Focus: Chariot Eagle has introduced a series of 8½-foot-wide park models with slides that have proven to be very popular as rental models, said Joe Follman, the company’s sales manager. Chariot Eagle has also included even more optional items in their models as standard equipment, including marble windowsills, night stands with overhead cabinets above the bed, new extended drawer guides and space saver microwaves. Chariot Eagle has also expanded its usage of tape and textured residential finishes at new competitive prices in their 2013 models.

Background: Robert Holliday founded Chariot Eagle in June 1984 with five employees and subsequently built it into one of the larger park model manufacturers in the country, with manufacturing operations at its headquarters in Ocala, Fla., and at its sister plant, Chariot Eagle West, in Phoenix, Ariz., which it opened in 1995 to service the West Coast market. Both plants build the same types of products, although their floor plans vary and architectural styles vary to reflect regional architectural tastes in exterior design. Chariot Eagle specializes in customized park models and has developed more than 650 different floorplans.

Management: Robert Holliday, president

Contact Information: 931 NW 37th Ave., Ocala, FL 34475; (352) 629-7007; fax (352) 732-0026; www.charioteagle.com. For Chariot Eagle West, 8100 W. Buckeye Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85043; (623) 936-7545; fax (623) 936-7012; www.charioteaglewest.com

Fairmont Park Trailers

2013 Focus: Fairmont Homes’ Park Trailer division is stepping up its involvement in the park model rental business, having introduced a new rental unit at the ARVC Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo in November, which generated significant interest from private park operators. “This is our first concerted effort to get into the rental market,” said John Soard, Fairmont Homes’ general manager. “We’ve got the ability to do higher volume building so we can be more efficient for dealers and campgrounds with rental products.”

Background: John Soard spent 20 years with Breckenridge and Woodland Park before joining Fairmont Homes in 2005 to run the company’s park trailer division. Fairmont Homes had been in the park model business back in the late ’80s and early ’90s and exited the market in 1994 to focus mainly on housing. But the company re-entered the park model market in 2005 when Soard joined the company as general manager. He said Fairmont Homes uses its housing expertise to build more durable and livable park models. The company has been expanding its market share in recent years.

Management: John Soard, general manager

Contact Information: 502 S. Oakland Ave., Nappanee, IN 46550; (800) 777-8787; fax (800) 865-2294; www.fairmontparktrailers.com

Forest River Inc.

2013 Focus: Forest River is conducting a major overhaul of its park model products. “We are in the midst of the biggest series of product changes in several years,” said account manager Gary Duncan, adding that the company has introduced four new floorplans and expanded its offering of wood colors, cabinet designs and window treatments. New kitchen backsplashes and hidden hinges for cabinets were introduced. Kitchen cabinet and pantry shelves are now adjustable. Countertop choices were expanded. Pullout trash cans and pull out pantries are now featured in most floorplans. New window treatments feature hard valances and give a more upscale look. Accent furniture has been updated. Interior doors are also now stained to match the cabinets. On the outside, new vinyl siding colors were added. Shutters have been added to entry doors and loft windows. Duncan said the changes have been well received. “We had an extremely good show in Louisville,” he said. “We signed up several new dealers, primarily as a result of the product changes we made.”

Background: Peter J. Liegl founded Forest River in January 1996 with an initial product lineup that included towable RVs and park models. Acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2005, Forest River has continued to expand its product line, which now includes motorized RVs as well as restroom trailers and mobile offices. Its park model products are certified green and are manufactured in the Quail Ridge, Summit, and America’s Park Cabin model lines. A floorplan for the physically challenged is also available.

Management: Jim Foltz, general manager

Contact Information: 28936 Phillips St., Elkhart, IN 46514; (574) 264-7163; fax (574) 264-7364; www.forestriverinc.com

H L Enterprise Inc.

2013 Focus: H L Enterprise is focusing on expanding its dealer network of independent retail dealers including many campground owners. H L offerings provide flexible floorplans rather than the typical “cookie cutter” approach most often seen in the industry, according to Peggy Flager, H L Enterprise president and co-owner. “We are able to give our customers more of what they want and accommodate specific needs, including those involving limited mobility” she said.

Background: With over 100 years of combined RV industry experience, including the establishment of the original Hyline in 1986, owners Peggy Flager, Charles Ragland and Randy Hoff started H L Enterprise Inc. with the purchase of assets and the right to manufacture the Hyline product in January 2011. Product lines were broadened with the subsequent purchase of assets of Bridgeview Manufacturing and a portion of Discover Canada. The result is the current line-up of Hyline, Bridgeview, Georgian Bay and Harborview models.

Management: Co-owners Peggy Flager, Charles Ragland and Randy Hoff and General Manager Steve Stone

Contact Information: 21674 Beck Dr., Elkhart, IN 46516; (574) 294-1112; fax (574) 970-1303; www.hlenterpriseinc.com

Pacific Yurts' curved window is popular among campgrounds and consumers.

Pacific Yurts

2013 Focus: Pacific Yurts continues to expand its business in both domestic and international markets. “Our custom-curve window has been quite popular,” said company President Alan Bair. “It has a patent-pending design integrating a thermal pane window and beautiful curved wood frame, making the yurt more energy efficient.” Bair is also seeing growing demand for larger yurts. “Our customers are adding kitchenettes and bathrooms and more interior amenities. The “glamping” trend continues,” he said.

Background: Pacific Yurts was established in 1978 as the original manufacturer of the modern yurt. Pacific Yurts is the largest yurt manufacturer in the world with most of its sales taking place in the U.S. and Canada. However, the company also sells significant numbers of yurts to customers in Europe and Asia. International sales account for about 5% to 10% of Pacific Yurts’ business, but international sales are growing, according to Bair.

Management: Alan Bair, president

Contact Information: 77456 Highway 99 South, Cottage Grove, OR 97424; (541) 942-9435; fax (541) 942-0508; www.pacificyurts.com

Pinnacle Park Homes

2013 Focus: Pinnacle Park Homes is expanding its offering of floorplans for its cabin rental products this year. “We took input from campground owners and are tweaking our floor plans,” said Terri Stewart, co-owner of Pinnacle Park Homes. “Our cabin rental line has done very well for us.” Pinnacle Park Homes has also established new lender relationships, which it shares with campground operators who need financing for their park model purchases. “Financing is still tough, but we keep building relationships with people,” Stewart said.

Background: Founded in 2003, Pinnacle Park Homes offers numerous park model floorplans with vinyl, Hardiboard, cedar or log exteriors. In addition to producing park models with vinyl and rustic exteriors, Pinnacle Park Homes produces the Lighthouse series of floating cabins, which are park models constructed on a floating device. The company also offers ADA compatible and ADA compliant park models based on campground needs and requirements.

Management: Terri Stewart, co-owner

Contact Information: 26488 GA Highway 3, Ochlocknee, GA 31773; (229) 574-5159; fax (229) 574-5184; www.pinnacleparkhomes.com

Skyline Corp.

2013 Focus: Skyline is having market success with new park model designs that include drywall interiors, which can be more easily repaired than damaged wood paneling. This feature is of particular interest to campground operators who use park models as rental accommodations. “This past year and a half we’ve gotten the product where we wanted to get it,” said Terry Decio, Skyline’s vice president of sales and marketing, adding that the company had very successful trade shows in Elkhart, Ind., and Louisville, Ky. Its rental product line, initially launched through a partnership with ARVC, is gaining traction in campground industry.

Background: Skyline is a diversified company that produces travel trailers and fifth-wheels as well as manufactured homes and park models. Its park models include both 8½-foot-wide and 12-foot-wide units. Skyline has been building park models since the early 1980s. It currently manufactures park model rental units in five factories across the country, including Hemet, Calif.; McMinnville, Ore.; Lancaster, Wis.; Ocala, Fla.; and Leola, Pa.

Management: Kevin Garthus, national product manager

Contact Information: 2520 By-Pass Road, Elkhart, IN 46515; (800) 755-6521, fax (574) 294-6521; www.skylinecorp.com and www.skylinepm.com

 

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'Covered Shelter' Builders Upbeat for 2013

February 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The cover of the Woodall's Campground Management February 2013 issue focusing on park models, cabins and yurts. This photo is of a Cavco Industries Inc. park model project in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Editor's Note: The following story is excerpted from the February issue of Woodall's Campground Management. Later this week, www.woodallscm.com will report in further detail trends in the park model, cabin and yurt industry and provide comments from the nation's leading builders of these covered shelter products.

This year might be the year that the recreational park trailer industry snaps out of its multi-year slump.

At least that’s what the major manufacturers are hoping for and telling Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) for its annual park model, cabins and yurts issue. And to what extent the nation’s campgrounds bolster their covered shelter inventory will go far in determining the success these OEMs experience in 2013.

The major campground chains, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), each reported a hearty demand for covered shelter in their parks in 2012, which encouraged the park model OEMs as they begin to fill the pipeline for 2013. KOA said deluxe cabin rentals, a key point of emphasis right now, was up more than 20% in 2012 with registration revenues growing 19.5% higher than in 2011.

LSI reported that rental unit revenue rose 17% in 2012 from 2011. Double-digit growth has been recorded the past three years.

“Some people (parks) are not really taking advantage of this,” LSI President Robert Schutter said late in the year. “This is an area that we can exploit for many years. We have not maxed out.”

Builders are taking a variety of steps to grow their market share in both the campground and retail marketplace.

OEM Reports

Interior of a Breckenridge park model.

Industry leader Breckenridge, a division of Thor Industries Inc., the RV industry’s No. 1 manufacturer, is stepping up its production of rental units for the campground industry. The company, which captured more than 25% of the retail park model market in 2012, has taken many steps to broaden the appeal of its 12-wide Extendable and Perfect Cottage series, explained Bob Phillips, general manager of Nappanee, Ind.-based manufacturer, which is a preferred provider for KOA and LSI, two of its two largest customers.

“What we're trying to do is anchor the market we’re in,” said Phillips. “Breckenridge has always been a leader in the 12-wide market. I don't think we're going to venture much outside that.”

In its Extendable Series, the company has adopted a full fiberglass front cap and tried to make a lot of the former options now standard, he explained. Color schemes have been changed.

In the entry-level Fine Line Series, three new floorplans are geared more to families and first-time buyers and are more economical, he said.

A lot of former options are now standard in the Perfect Cottage series. New features include wholehouse vacuums and heavy-duty, pullout kitchen spray faucets and softened interior color schemes.

“A number of campground dealers should be excited about that product (model),” he said.

In the last three years, Breckenridge has become more serious about its campground rental units, Phillips said. He termed that market “a different beast” from the retail market and said the company has attempted to shore up this market.

Breckenridge also offers a rental unit it has “hardened” for the demands of campground users. “For a rental product, it’s very bullet-proof for a campground,” he said.

Phillips said Breckenridge is proud of its No. 1 position in retail registrations and welcomes the competition. He said those builders gaining market share with Breckenridge are doing so in the 8 ½-wide market.

“We want to make sure those nibbling don’t get too close. They have pushed us in what we do,” he said.

Forest River Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, the nation’s No. 2 RV builder and among the five largest park model makers, has done a total overhaul of its park model offerings for 2013 in its high line Quail Ridge and entry-level Summit product line.

The company has introduced four new floorplans so far and revamped its interior decors for these 12-wide models. Many formerly optional features are now standard on the Quail Ridge line and may be available on Summit products.

Interior doors are now stained to match the cabinets. New cabinet designs and styles, new kitchen backsplashes and hidden hinges for cabinets were introduced. Cabinets now have pulls instead of handles and ball-bearing glides. Kitchen cabinet and pantry shelves are now adjustable. Countertop choices were expanded. Pullout trash cans are now inside the pantries.

New window treatments feature hard valances and give a more upscale look. Accent furniture was updated.

On the outside, new vinyl siding colors were added. Shutters have been added to entry doors and loft windows.

“Competition was at the heart of the need to change,” said Gary Duncan, account manager for the Elkhart, Ind.-based manufacturer. “We weren’t gaining market share in recent years. These changes are recognition of competition and where the product needed to be. It was getting stale. Minor changes weren’t going to cut it; we really had to do something dramatic.”

The company also has upgraded its cabin-like park models, which it builds to customer specs. The basic model is a derivative of a KOA floorplan, which is tailored to meet the customer’s needs. Forest River made few changes in its cabin offerings, other than improving its interior paneling and upgrading its wooden cabinets. Cabins are available with vinyl, cedar lap or cedar log siding.

Lead times for Forest River products are about six weeks.

Cavco Industries Inc., a publicly held company, was keeping under wraps several soon-to-be-announced park model products that will be industry firsts.

“I think innovation is what has kept Cavco in the game,” said Tim Gage, national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products for the Phoenix-based manufacturer.

As reported earlier by WCM, Elkhart, Ind.-based Skyline Corp., another publicly held company and in a solid third place in retail sales among park model builders, has opted to resume park model production at its manufactured housing plants in Wisconsin and Oregon based on the dealer response to Skyline’s park model display at the Louisville Show, said Mike Scheid, division general manager of Skyline’s plant in Leola, Pa.

Interior view of a Skyline Corp. park model.

The Shore Park is built in a manufactured housing plant and uses many of the components used in manufactured housing. For example, it’s one of a few manufacturers who use drywall inside their park models.

“We figured out a way to ship it without cracking,” he said.

He said his plant picked up eight to 10 new dealers at Louisville and business looks to be up 25% to 35% again this year. Canadian business also is growing, he added.

“We’re looking forward to gaining market share and upping our revenues,” he said.

Its plant location in Leola also helps keep freight costs down to customers in the Northeast, compared with the park model builders based in Northern Indiana, he said.

The Canterbury brand name has been in the industry since 1982 and today is manufactured by DNA Enterprises in Goshen, Ind. The company’s core product offering is 12-wide park models which come in three distinct price tiers, noted company spokesman Kevin Wells. The Bayview is the entry-level model, the full-featured Parkvue is for the upscale buyer and the Select is a custom-made product.

RVIA Smiling After Big Louisville Show

As WCM reported in its January issue, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) came away from the 50th Annual National RV Trade Show held in Louisville, Ky., optimistic about the 10 park model manufacturers who exhibited 2013 product there.

For the first time, the builders were allowed to bid on space anywhere within the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Before 2012, the builders were limited to specific areas of the exhibition hall.

This was the first Louisville Show held since the Georgia-based Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) was shelved and the bulk of its members invited to rejoin RVIA after a hiatus of more than a decade.

“The feeling was very positive. It goes to the whole notion they are part of the overall RVIA family again,” said Matt Wald, the RVIA’s recreational park trailer executive director. “Both psychologically and from the traffic flow, they felt it was a good deal for them.”

Other firms showing at Louisville were: Athens Park Homes/Champion, Breckenridge, Chariot Eagle, DNA Enterprises (Canterbury), Dutch Park Homes, Fairmont Homes, Kropf Industries Inc. and Woodland Park.

20 Park Model OEMs Join RVIA

Matt Wald

On July 1, 2012, the RVIA created a new membership category for manufacturers of recreational park trailers, also known as park models. By year-end, 18 manufacturers, representing upward of 95% of annual park trailer production, had joined the RVIA, with two other applications pending inspection of their facilities.

“We had anticipated having 15 members; we have exceeded our expectations. Everybody is happy about that,” Wald said.

All but two of the new members were members of the RPTIA, which still exists, but in name only.

“A couple of OEMs are still not in the RVIA family, but we would love to have them aboard,” he said. “Some are waiting to see if this ‘marriage’ works before investing in it. We think it is a value proposition they can’t stay away from.”

A new page on the RVIA’s homepage at www.rvia.org pertains to recreational park trailers with a link to annual shipment figures and other information.

The industry is coming off a second straight year of little if any year-over-year growth, but Wald and others see a glimmer of hope in the future.

During the past year, Champion Homes purchased Athens Park Homes of Athens, Texas, and has begun to produce Athens Park product in Champion plants across the U.S., which Wald calls “a pretty significant entry into the park model side of the business.” This puts them in the same national markets with industry leaders Breckenridge and Cavco, Wald noted.

Aside from anecdotal evidence and monthly wholesale shipments, which RVIA tracks, Wald said major players told him following the Louisville Show their orders were solid. “With the economy turning the corner, it could be a good year in 2013. I would like to be cautiously optimistic and say I do not expect a drop-off in 2013. I’m expecting a ‘flat’ year but hoping for better,” he said.

Issues such as consumer confidence, the “fiscal cliff” and financing are beyond RVIA’s control, he noted, “but I think it’s fair to say this industry is solid and primed to grow, hopefully this year,” he said.

 

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