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Ocean Lakes Holding “Polar Bear Plunge”

December 16, 2014 by · Comments Off on Ocean Lakes Holding “Polar Bear Plunge” 

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 9.11.14 AMOcean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C., announced that it will host its 14th Annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Eve.

The ultimate icy challenge will take place on Dec. 31 at 3 p.m., at the oceanfront observation deck, and carries the theme, “We’re freezin’ for a reason this year!”

New this year is the Polar Bear food drive to benefit local food pantries after the Christmas holiday. Participants will be asked to bring two nonperishable canned items.

With more than 300 participants of all ages, Ocean Lakes’ teammates are excited about helping local charities. A $6 yearly membership fee will include entry into the Polar Bear Plunge, a t-shirt naming participants a “Polar Bear,” bragging rights, and warm refreshments.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 9.10.54 AMThe Polar Bear Plunge is a winter tradition at Ocean Lakes. From three courageous souls taking the first dip in 1999, the event now plays host to more than 300 participants.

For more information about Ocean Lakes Family Campground, visit its website, ‘like’ it on Facebook or follow it on Twitter.

Halloween Keeps Growing At Ocean Lakes

October 13, 2014 by · Comments Off on Halloween Keeps Growing At Ocean Lakes 

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 10.32.49 AMHalloween festivities at Ocean Lakes Family Campground have become so popular that the South Carolina campground features three weekends of events. Family friendly activities will take place Oct. 17-18, Oct. 24-25 and Oct 31 – Nov. 1. Activities are for registered guests of the campground only.. The weekends close to Oct. 31 will be the first to fill up.

All three weekends will feature the same festivities full of traditional activities and entertainment such as pumpkin carving contests, costume contests (human and pet), a show to entertain the entire family, site decorating contests and trick or treating.

“Our Halloween Weekends continue to become more popular,” said Barb Krumm, director of marketing and public relations at Ocean Lakes Family Campground. “Our guests of all ages have so much fun with the Halloween activities, and they know that they can relax because of our safe and secure family environment.”

Each weekend of fright-filled fun begins on Friday night with a Spooktacular Magic Show featuring family entertainment. This evening of free entertainment begins at 7 p.m. in the Recreation Center.

On Saturday, a full day of planned Halloween-themed activities are designed to please the young and young at heart. Activities include Candy Corn Guess, Halloween Family Crafts, and The Great Pumpkin Search and Scavenger Hunt, where guests search the campground for hidden pumpkins. There will be costume contests for adults, groups, children, and pets. Guests can also participate in Halloween games and traditional activities like a Pumpkin Carving/Decorating Contest, and the kids’ favorite tradition, Trick or Treating. The entire family can enjoy going camper to camper by golf car collecting candy. It’s still daylight, making it easier to trick or treat with the children.

In the evening, guests of the campground can participate in the Creepy Site Crawl by decorating their sites in Halloween motif. Guests cast ballots Saturday evening after they tour the spooky sites throughout the campground to vote for the best decorated sites. Some guests’ stay will span two weekends with elaborately decorated campsites. The final activity of the evening will be a Monster Mash Ball at 7 p.m.

“Word has gotten out about our family atmosphere for children and grandchildren,” said Krumm. “Many of our guests really get into the spirit of things by decorating their campsite or rental house. Ocean Lakes Halloween Weekends have become a family tradition for many who join us to create happy memories that will last a lifetime.”

Ocean Lakes Family Campground, a division of The Jackson Cos., is the largest campground on the East Coast and one of the largest in the United States. Located in Myrtle Beach, S.C., it has received numerous awards for excellence. It is the 2011-2012 National “Park of the Year” in the Mega Park category and has received that honor from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) five times. In 2010, it received the Earth Day Award from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control for its iCare Program.

Ocean Lakes’ Bluegrass Weekend: A Winner

September 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on Ocean Lakes’ Bluegrass Weekend: A Winner 

Doyle Lawson, of the legendary bluegrass band Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, performs at Ocean Lakes Family Campground’s annual Bluegrass Weekend. They’ve been around since the ’60s in some form or another. Doyle was inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame last year.

Theme weekends, sports activities, nature interaction, arts and crafts, you name it – campgrounds are offering everything under the sun to draw whatever audience they can hook, and when campers want even more, it’s a wise and necessary practice to mention nearby attractions.

Still, there’s no denying that while referring guests to local points of interest is part of what brings people in, it’s preferable to keep them in.

When a campground’s natural limitations (or campers’ expanding expectations) may start to push guests to outside attractions, you can pull them back in by bringing outside attractions to your campground.

Take Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C., as an example. Their annual summer Bluegrass Weekend started as all initiatives do: with an idea and an effort.

It was right after the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) named Ocean Lakes the 1997 “RV Park of the Year,” and the goal was to create an event that would bring new and more guests to Ocean Lakes during the low-occupancy chunk of summer between schools getting back in session and Labor Day weekend. When a music-industry friend of Barb Krumm, director of marketing and public relations for Ocean Lakes, commented to her that 50% to 70% of bluegrass fans were also campers, a lightbulb went off over her head, and the Bluegrass Weekend was born.

“The plan was to make it an event that would build over time and become known by the musicians,” explained Rachel Beckerman, marketing assistant and events coordinator. This year, its 15th, the festival featured eight performing acts during the weekend of Aug. 23-24.

Those 15 years have helped Ocean Lakes pound out the kinks on an event that’s become an ongoing source of entertainment and success, and they have some advice for anyone else looking to dip their toes into festival waters.

Start With the Basics

Step One: Start early. “Don’t procrastinate,” Beckerman advised. “When putting on an event this size, you really have to make sure everything is in place long before the event actually gets here.”

Next, start small. “See how you can handle one or two bands before putting on an entire festival,” she said. “It is much better to leave your guests wanting more than wishing they had never come!”

Finally, get all the nuts-and-bolts paperwork and permissions handled, such as revenue tax considerations, hiring a security team, procuring W-9 tax forms for the performers to sign, assessing your property for a good performance site, deciding how much you’re willing to spend on performers – “Budget plays a big role, of course; we’re a campground, after all, not the Grand Ole Opry” – and how much you’ll charge attendees. (Ocean Lakes keeps ticket prices low since higher summer-season camping rates are still in effect.)

Don’t forget to take care of music licensing fees, and don’t forget there’s assistance with that available to ARVC members, Beckerman said. “Make sure you pay your fees to ASCAP/SMI/SEASAC. Recently, ARVC has offered major discounts through membership to our state association. It is well worth the membership because we have more than paid for it with just that benefit!”

However you proceed from here, take notes and learn from both mistakes and successes: “Honestly, there is a learning curve to any niche market.” Don’t be afraid to try new things; you can always change it again if it doesn’t work out as expected. For example, the Bluegrass Weekend was expanded to a four-day event for a few years, but they found it was not an improvement and went back to its original two-day format.

Donna Ulisse & the Poor Mountain Boys

Bringing in the Talent

Once you decide what niche to pursue and when to hold your event, Beckerman said it’s really just a matter of making some calls to see who will come for what you can offer them. Again, Beckerman said it’s wise to start small – “We started with one big-name band as the draw and several inexpensive regional bands” – and start early. “In order to make sure we get top musicians, I have to book them two years in advance.”

She tries to select bands that represent a variety of bluegrass (traditional, modern, gospel, etc.).

“When I feel I’ve got a good mix, I just start calling bands and seeing what they want – and what they are actually willing to take!” she related.

Ocean Lakes has worked with the bands on rates from the beginning, sometimes by “providing them a little oceanfront vacation.” There is, however, a caveat regarding compensation – don’t offer anything you’re not willing to keep offering (and then some) as time goes on. “I warn you to be cautious in this area,” she asserted. “Once they get used to free things, it’s difficult to break the pattern. Some bands are great and appreciate anything you do for them; others will take everything, and then ask for more.”

Bringing in the Audience

Now you’ve got the dates and performers figured out. If you build it, they will come – but only if you promote it well. Ocean Lakes promotes through campground-controlled outlets such as its website, social media channels, campground magazine, newsletter and in-house promotions. They also reach out to general camping audiences through travel shows, press releases and rally flyers, and to the bluegrass music fan base through publications such as Bluegrass Unlimited. In all these materials, it’s made clear that this event is restricted to Ocean Lakes’ guests only.

Ocean Lakes Family Campground

“Because we have limited seating and very limited parking, we cannot open our show to the public,” Beckerman explained. Guests must first book their site or rental house and then purchase event tickets separately. “Each time we sell a ticket, it is my job to match that ticket sale with a site reservation.”

Ocean Lakes is aware that not every camper staying during those two days will be interested in the event – not even every person in the same party as some attendees. That’s another reason event wristbands are sold separately from site reservations and a big reason for the “wraparound activities” scheduled throughout the weekend. Pool, golf, mini golf tournaments, bluegrass trivia and scavenger hunts hopefully sweeten the pot for music fans, Beckerman said, but they also provide plenty of non-concert fun so every camper has something to do.

Running the Show

You built it and they came – now, where to put them?

Beckerman said backstage space in their recreation center is very limited, but that’s OK with the musicians – and good news for other campgrounds which might be concerned their space is insufficient. The musicians’ “green room” is one side room near Ocean Lake’s stage that’s stocked with food, snacks, water and soda. “Generally when I let the band know about our Hospitality Room, that makes them more than happy,” she related.

Staffing the event itself will take plenty of hands, and here Ocean Lakes gets volunteers to help out. A group comes for the week of the show to assist with set-up, teardown, checking tickets at the door, keeping the bands on time and anything else that may arise.

While volunteer help is crucial, Beckerman said there is “an art to managing volunteers.” Test the people you get and make notes on the ones who are really making a difference – and those who may not be. When encountering the latter, she said you can’t be afraid to police them just because they aren’t paid workers. “You learn who to trust, and sometimes you really have to lay down the law. Otherwise you lose control.”

Laying down the law may also be necessary with your event attendees, Beckerman said, and it’s important that your regular camping customers remain your highest priority. “You have to make the niche market happy, but we have park policies that have to be respected,” she stated. “Picking is a good example. Bluegrass fans love to stand around their sites ’til the early morning hours playing music. That’s nice, but our quiet hours are 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. It took us a couple of years to come to that understanding. You have to be willing to lose some people that can’t abide by your park’s policies.”

Winding Up

The Lonesome River Band at the 2011 Ocean Lakes Bluegrass Weekend.

Wait up, fellas! Don’t forget to have each performer sign that W-9 tax form before they leave.  (“We will not pay them until they do,” Beckerman stated.)

Once the facilities are cleared out and cleaned up, she goes over the comment cards filled out during the concert asking what bands they’d like to see in the future. Customer feedback drives the selection for every Bluegrass Weekend at Ocean Lakes. “Really, it’s our guests who pick the bands. After all, they are the ones buying the tickets, so they should get to hear who they want to hear.”

That’s when she picks up the phone and starts the whole process all over again.

The Last Note

Beckerman’s overall advice for coordinating this kind of event is to prepare for everything, including the unexpected. “Get all your ducks in a row prior to the show – and create back-up plans, because we all know everything doesn’t always go as planned,” she advised.

Doing that will keep you from getting in over your head, she said, which makes for a far happier experience for both the campers and administrators.

 

 

Latest Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds

August 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Latest Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds 

 

Image courtesy of Arizona State Parks

ARIZONA

From the News-Herald, Lake Havasu City:

Arizona State Parks (ASP) officials unveiled conceptual drawings Wednesday night (Aug. 21) to Lake Havasu Marine Association of what is to come at Contact Point.

“We are wanting to manage this Lake a little better, there’s a lot of congestion,” said ASP executive director Bryan Martyn. “We want to move some of that traffic down south.”

The proposed project is earmarked for 40-acres of ASP land that is nestled next to the existing Water Safety Center.

Artist-renderings of the proposed project show a new marina, boat storage lots and parking.

Wednesday, Martyn said the proposed project boasts two boat launch ramp sites with a combined 12 lanes. Other amenities include, bathrooms, trails, fishing nodes and camping.

“It will be what you would expect at an Arizona state park,” Martyn said.

Calling Lake Havasu State Park an “economic driver for this community,” Martyn said the three goals of ASP are continuing to be a resource protection agency; providing public access to the agency’s resources; and continuing on as an economic driver.

Martyn noted the ASP state parks system to round up an estimated $266 million to rural Arizona.

“You will continue to see good things at Arizona State Parks,” he said.

SOUTH CAROLINA

From the Myrtle Beach Sun News:

Time for some bluegrass at the beach in South Carolina.

The two-day weekend event at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach is scheduled to begin today (Aug. 23).

The 15th annual event features eight different bands. Included on the schedule for this year are Rhonda Vincent and the Rage and the Larry Stephenson Band.

Performances run from 4 p.m. through 10 p.m. on Friday and from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday.

Ocean Lakes is one of the largest campgrounds in the nation with a mile of beachfront and almost 3,500 camping sites.

 

Ocean Lakes to Host 15th Bluegrass Weekend

July 29, 2013 by · Comments Off on Ocean Lakes to Host 15th Bluegrass Weekend 

A group performs at the 11th Annual Ocean Lakes Family Campground Premier Bluegrass Weekend in 2009

Ocean Lakes Family Campground, a division of The Jackson Cos., will host the 15th Annual Premier Bluegrass Weekend on Friday, Aug. 23, and Saturday, Aug. 24.

The event is open to all guests staying at the campground. With performances scheduled from some of the top names in Bluegrass music, tickets are selling fast, according to a news release.

Performances will be held in the air-conditioned Recreation Center on Friday, from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m., and Saturday, from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. Wristbands are valid for both days and can be purchased in advance. The cost to attend is $45 for adults, $20 for children 6-12, and admission is free for children under 6. Ticket prices do not include site fee. Starting Friday, Aug. 23, tickets will be $50 for adults and $20 for children.

Campsite reservations can be made by calling (877) 510-1413, or for house rental reservations, (800) 845-2229. When making reservations, let the reservationist know you are coming in for the Bluegrass Weekend. Tickets can be purchased online at www.oceanlakes.com or by calling the ticket hotline at (843) 828-4856.

Some of the top names in Bluegrass will be performing:

  • Rhonda Vincent & The Rage (Saturday, Aug. 24) – Considered by many as the “Queen of Bluegrass,” she has received a variety of awards, including “Female Vocalist of the Year” by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) for three years in a row.
  • The Larry Stephenson Band (Friday, Aug. 23) – Respected as one of Bluegrass music’s finest voices, he has received numerous awards including “Mandolin Player of the Year” and “Male Vocalist of the Year” (five times) by Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association (SPBGMA).
  • Blue Highway (Saturday, Aug. 24) – Throughout their 17 years, Blue Highway has received two Grammy nominations, a Dove Award, and won numerous awards from IBMA and the SPBGMA.
  • Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice (Friday, Aug. 23) – They have received a variety of awards. This year, the SPBGMA honored the group with three awards: “Album of the Year,” “Song of the Year,” and Junior Sisk was named “Male Vocalist of the Year” (contemporary).
  • Bluegrass Brothers (Saturday, Aug. 24) – Known for their traditional Bluegrass sound, they were named the SPBGMA “Instrumental Group of the Year” in 2010.
  • The Grass Cats (Saturday, Aug. 24) – Known for their exciting live performances and critically acclaimed recordings, they play traditional Bluegrass as well as “covers” of songs from artists as diverse as Eric Clapton, Duke Ellington and Johnny Cash.
  • Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road (Friday, Aug. 23) – Two-time winners of the IBMA’s “Recorded Event of the Year” award, they are known for their traditional sound. Lorraine Jordan is also known for her hard-driving mandolin style, and is affectionately known as the “Lady of Tradition.”
  • Mark Templeton & Pocket Change (Friday, Aug. 23) – They are well-known for their “Bluegrass Instrumentation” and their unique “Southern Gospel Style Harmony.”

“We are excited to have eight premier Bluegrass entertainers at Ocean Lakes this year,” said Barb Krumm, director of marketing and public relations at Ocean Lakes Family Campground. “Guests look forward to and plan for this event all year long. Not only will there be some of the best Bluegrass music around, we also have some fun activities planned. We encourage purchasing tickets as soon as possible to ensure campground guests won’t miss out on this fun-filled weekend.”

For more information about Ocean Lakes, visit www.oceanlakes.com, follow on Twitter or “like” the campground on Facebook.

 

2012: Record Year for Ocean Lakes RV Center

June 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on 2012: Record Year for Ocean Lakes RV Center 

Leading campground’s RV center expands.

The award-winning Ocean Lakes RV Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C., just completed major renovations, and has expanded its facility. It now includes an additional RV service bay, new RV sales offices, and more space for its camper supplies, parts and accessories store and Awning Center, according to a news release.

Located at 6003 S. Kings Highway, the RV Center sits beside Ocean Lakes Family Campground’s Main Office. It is accessible from Highway 17 Business (King’s Highway) and from inside the campground.

“This renovation and expansion were crucial to meet the needs and demands of our customers,” explained Chris Allen, general manager of Ocean Lakes RV Center. “We experienced a record year in sales and service during 2012 signaling that the time was right to make this investment in our facility.”

Ocean Lakes RV Center has added a 60-foot by 22-foot camper service bay onto the back of its existing structure. With seven service technicians on the team, the new service bay gives the RV Center the capability of working on larger fifth-wheel campers and park trailers. As RVs have grown in size, including height, the older bay made it difficult for technicians to service camper roofs and air-conditioning units. Plus the 1,320 square feet of additional space allow the technicians to work on four units at one time. Ocean Lakes RV Center also travels to other area campgrounds to service RVs at their campsites.

Adding new sales offices became necessary as well. With consumer confidence on the rise and interest rates lower, 2012 was a record year for RV sales at Ocean Lakes RV Center, which specializes in travel trailers and fifth-wheel campers. The RV Center added 425 square feet for two sales offices and a pre-sales lobby to provide more privacy while dealing with financial information. In addition to new campers, Ocean Lakes RV Center also sells used campers and those on consignment. Camper inventory prices range from $7,500 – $90,000 making it appealing for many families and retirees.

The expansion allowed Ocean Lakes RV Center to also increase the square footage of its store, which carries a wide range of camping supplies and accessories. With more floor space, it is now able to stock additional accessory lines. In addition, the Ocean Lakes RV Center increased storage space to accommodate more service and store merchandise for future need.

For more information about Ocean Lakes RV Center, visit www.olrv.com, or call (800) 226-7716 or (843) 238-5532.

 

Latest Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds

May 21, 2013 by · Comments Off on Latest Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds 

 

Ron Welchel

SOUTH CAROLINA

From a news release:

The Jackson Cos., owners of Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach and other properties, has promoted Ron Welchel to the position of vice president of human resources, safety & risk management. Welchel is responsible for employee relations; compensation and benefit design and administration; staffing; safety; risk management and training.

“Ron brought a depth of knowledge and experience to our organization when he was hired last year and in the relatively short time he has been part of our team, he has made significant contributions and favorably impacted our HR and benefit programs,” comments Dennis Wade, CEO of the Jackson Cos.

Since joining the Jackson Cos., Welchel has focused on integrating technology into the hiring and application process. Managers have heralded the streamlined process allowing them to fill positions more quickly to meet their manpower needs. The new hire training process has also been revamped so that training and administrative requirements are met more efficiently.

IOWA

From the Mason City Gloe Gazette:

Adam Shirley, Mitchell County Conservation director, said most of the campgrounds in Mitchell County have taken a major hit from the storms that struck near Osage on Sunday (May 19).

“They are in bad shape and will not be available for the Memorial Day weekend,” Shirley said. “We are going to take a big financial hit.”

He added there was a lot of road damage at the wildlife areas.

“We are also seeing a lot of trees down in the parks,” he said.

Before the parks reopen, septic systems will need to be checked for any damage.

State Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, said he had been in contact with the governor’s office requesting a disaster declaration.

“I will be in Des Moines tomorrow and will be making a personal visit to see what I can get done for the residents of Mitchell County,” he said.

Sheriff Greg Beaver said the county was looking at Cedar River to crest five feet above flood stage sometime today.

CALIFORNIA

From KABC-TV, Los Angeles:

A wildfire burning near Frazier Park in Kern County is almost fully contained.

The Grand Fire, which broke out May 15, has charred 4,346 acres.

No homes or other buildings were threatened, but over the weekend, fire officials said the steep and rugged terrain was making it difficult for ground crews to battle the flames.

Hungry Valley State Park is scheduled to reopen Wednesday.

ILLINOIS

From the Morris Daily Herald:

A 19-year-old Sandwich man was arrested by Kendall County Sheriff’s police Monday (May 20) and charged with theft, capping a three-month investigation.

On Feb. 12, Richard Stiles allegedly stole money from the Hide-a-way Lakes Campground in unincorporated Kendall County in Yorkville.

Stiles faces nine felony counts of theft over $500.

Stiles is being held on a $50,000/10% bond at the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Center.

PENNSYLVANIA

From a news release:

Industry veteran Stacy Wallis has joined Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS) management team at Outdoor World PA Dutch Country RV Resort in Manheim, Pa.

“We are delighted to welcome Stacy to our management team,” stated Senior Regional Manager Adella Houck. “Stacy’s experience working in RV park and campground operations and with her broad industry knowledge will be a considerable asset to us. We are confident that Stacy will bring a strategic perspective to the position that will be instrumental in driving our company forward.”

Wallis will be responsible for the overall resort operations, including marketing, maintenance, recreation, retail and membership sales.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work at PA Dutch Country RV Resort,” Wallis said. “Having watched Equity Lifestyle Properties approach to the market and their emphasis on customer service over the years, I know I’ve found a company that shares my vision for what is important to RVers. I’m looking forward to working for the market leader and playing a role in the company’s growth.”

IRELAND

From a news release:

The Dublin-based Research and Markets  has announced the addition of the “2013 U.S. RV Parks & Campgrounds Industry-Industry & Market Report” report to its offering.

The U.S. RV Parks & Campgrounds Industry-Industry & Market Report, published annually , contains timely and accurate industry statistics, forecasts and demographics.

The report features 2013 current and 2014 forecast estimates on the size of the industry (sales, establishments, employment) nationally and for all 50 U.S. States and over 900 metro areas. Other data include financial ratios, number of firms, payroll, industry definition, five-year historical trends on industry sales, establishments and employment, a breakdown of establishments, sales and employment by employee size of establishment (nine categories), and estimates on up to 10 sub-industries, including campsites, trailer parks and recreational vehicle parks.

Research and Markets is the world’s leading source for international market research reports and market data. We provide you with the latest data on international and regional markets, key industries, the top companies, new products and the latest trends.

 

Bakken oil range map

NORTH DAKOTA

From Fox News:

The murder of a North Dakota man has authorities investigating whether other recent missing persons cases are connected or the work of separate criminals who’ve descended on the area known as the Bakken Formation, where new discoveries of oil and natural gas have drawn thousands of transient newcomers and strained the resources of police.

Police on May 14 found the body of 58-year-old Jack Sjol in a shallow grave about six miles southeast of his ranch in Williston. Sjol was shot “multiple times,” and authorities arrested and charged 33-year-old Ryan Stensaker with his murder, Williams County Sheriff Scott Busching told FoxNews.com. Stensaker, who has a history of drug-related convictions, is being held on $1 million bail.

“We have over 90,000 man camp beds permitted in Williams County alone, and countless RV’s, RV parks, sanctioned or not.” said Williams County (N.D.) Sheriff Scott Busching

Sjol’s case is one of several missing persons cases to hit the area since an influx of people moved to the region in pursuit of high-paying jobs in the oil and gas industry.

Investigators are considering whether the men’s disappearances are connected or whether they are separate crimes committed by convicts who find it easy to go undetected in an area that’s experienced a recent population boom because of discoveries in the 200,000-square-mile Bakken Formation, which stretches through swaths of North Dakota and Montana. So many men have moved in recent years to North Dakota, where unemployment is the lowest in the nation, that they must live in camps and RVs because new home construction can’t keep up with demand.

“We have people living in tents and under bridges,” Busching said. “They come and go.”

 

Camp Stores: Source for Essentials & More

April 9, 2013 by · Comments Off on Camp Stores: Source for Essentials & More 

The Sandy Mart at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C., offers a wide selection of products for campers.

The campground store can be the difference between a successful campground with happy guests and a less successful campground with guests who frequently leave the park to buy essential camping items.

Stores are a common fixture at campgrounds, with 81% of those parks responding to the 2010 economic survey conducted by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) saying they operate a store. The percentage response was the same across all sizes of campgrounds.

According to the survey, the average annual sales per store was $126,333 with $40,000 being the median sales, meaning half the campgrounds had sales above this figure and half had sales below.

Operators who consider a store an after-thought should give it a second thought.

At Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), franchisor of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, campground stores are big business.

“Jellystone owners don’t take their stores lightly,” said Jane Eaton, LSI’s director of operations and owner of a Jellystone park in Nashville, Tenn. “That income is huge. In a Jellystone Park, 16% to 30% of the revenues come from stores. Store income is not to be trifled with, at least not in the Jellystone arena.”

Likewise, at Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), the home office staff helps new owners as well as veteran ones make smart decisions about their campground stores. KOA requires every campground to have a store, but beyond that it sets few requirements.

“We do suggest they carry groceries and RV supplies and also souvenirs if they are in a high tourist destination,” explained Isabel Frederick, longtime merchandise manager for KOA and now a business development consultant.

“I’ve always felt there is a lot of money to be made in the store area, but it’s up to the individual owners. A lot of it is trial and error. Retailing isn’t something you can teach overnight. It’s something you grow into,” she continued. “They should set a goal based on camper nights. We have some campgrounds whose stores gross $22 per camper night and some do $3 per camper night. I like to say a minimum should be $5 net per camper night.”

Kelli Morse, Frederick’s successor at merchandise manager, tells franchisees, “Make sure you buy right, for the right price, display it right and create a ‘buy-me’ atmosphere, especially if you are a seasonal park with return customers. You want to change it up (displays) from time to time and sell at a good profit margin. I also tell them to sell what their customers want, not what they want. And if you make a mistake (and buy something that no one wants to buy), get rid of it!”

Frederick added, “I always encouraged owners not to make their store a museum. Get rid of the old.”

Frederick maintains that campground stores don’t have to view the nearby big box store as a major competitor, as long as they price their items correctly.

“If you have milk at 3.89 and I am a camper who needs milk, I will buy the milk from you. I’m willing to pay 20% more for the convenience. A camper, if they need a few items, will go ahead and buy them and pay the extra dollar amount for the convenience and not have to fight the people at Walmart down the street,” she said.

Anyway, the best return on investment can be made from souvenirs and gift items, she continued. “Basically, you can sell a gift or souvenir for whatever the camper is willing to pay,” she said.

KOA maintains a suggested price structure that it passes along to franchisees on recommended margins. It states the markup on milk and bread should be between 16% and 20% and for gifts and souvenirs between 45% and 50%. “Everything else is in between,” Frederick said.

Both women recommended campground owners attend gift shows, usually held over the winter, to view the latest gift items, and for KOA franchisees, they encourage them to attend the KOA Expo held in conjunction with the annual convention staged each fall.

As for fads, Frederick thinks the days are gone when campground stores could carry fad items and do well on them.

A generation ago, Troll dolls were big – “campground stores were loaded with them,” she recalled. “If you’re carrying trolls right now, good luck!”

ARVC sponsors seminars on campground stores and offers advice on how to run them. Jeff Sims, ARVC’s director of state relations and program advocacy and a 40-year veteran of park ownership, says knowing what to stock can be tricky. He said he recalls his father saying one time at their park in Branson, Mo., “Why are you carrying that item? We don’t eat that.”

“Forget about what you want,” Sims advised his father. What does your customer want?”

Campers need the basics but no one approach fits all, he said. “I would always recommend you stock your shelves full. I hate to see one bottle of ketchup on the shelf. It doesn’t instill much confidence.”

Ocean Lakes Sandy Mart Like a Supermarket

The campground store at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is like a supermarket. The 12,500-square-foot Sandy Mart stocks some 15,000 different items, from groceries, gifts and souvenirs to beachwear, hardware and fishing tackle supplies for salt water and fresh water fishing. The store, renovated in 2005, serves one of the nation’s largest campgrounds: On any given weekend, 30,000 campers may be at Ocean Lakes and an estimated half million visit the park on an annual basis.

It’s a challenging task for Sandy Mart Manager Wade Cooper and his fulltime staff of four to keep the store stocked with the camping essentials.

Adjacent to the Sandy Mart is a laundry featuring 100 machines and a restaurant. The complex has become a hub of activity for campers who can enjoy dining, shopping, entertainment, free Wi-Fi and a great laundry facility.

“Lately we have tried to increase our registered trademarked (Sandy brand) items,” noted Barb Krumm, marketing manager at Ocean Lakes. “Part of that may be Generation X and younger who have grown up with Disney and brand name loyalty and awareness. We’ve had more requests for that. Young ones are very marketing savvy consumers.”

Like other campgrounds, the Sandy Mart also faces stiff competition from nearby stores. The Sandy Mart competes with a Walmart, a Foodliner, a Piggly Wiggly and a Walgreen’s within two miles of Ocean Lakes’ front gate.

“We have the convenience factor; we’re right here on the campground. Why would you want to go anywhere else,” Cooper reasons.

ARVC’s Sims recalled a fellow campground owner in Missouri years ago whose rating in a campground directory was reduced because he didn’t carry certain items in his store. He had tried to compete with a Walmart down the road but came up short so he didn’t stock the non-competitive-priced items.

“One day he called me down to his campground and showed me a mobile shed he had set up at his campground. Painted on the front was this sign: Bob’s Ice and Advice.”

He carried one box of cereal, a can of beans and one sample of other items that the directory representative said he should carry but he listed them at outrageous prices.

“I asked him what is the advice and he said, ‘Don’t buy anything. I don’t want to restock.’”

The friend got his higher rating the next year.

Author Bill Thompson

Unique Gift Shop

Those crazy days of inflexibility are long gone, but meeting public needs can still be tricky. Some stores have sought to become destinations in themselves.

Consider the CarrollWoods RV Park at Grapefull Sisters Vineyard near Myrtle Beach, S.C., which operates a unique campground store known as The Gift Shop. Aside from the routine items carried by campground stores, the shop conducts daily wine tasting and offers a variety of wines and jams and jellies from the vineyard which is located next to the campground.

The shop features jewelry and artwork by local artists, provides portrait painting (“Masterpiece in Minutes”) on site and sponsors a book club featuring local authors who come to discuss their books. For example, on March 23, author Bill Thompson led a discussion of his latest book, “Celia Whitfield’s Boy.”

“Having a gift shop sets us apart from other campgrounds” in the Myrtle Beach area, said Christine Carroll, manager of the 35-site park which opened in 2009, three years after the vineyard began commercial operations.

The store at Bay Center/Wallapa Bay KOA in Bay Center, Wash., remains open year-round as a community service, even though the park closes for winter.

Indeed, some campgrounds stay open year-round to serve local residents, even when the campground is closed.

Ken and Iris Shupe run such a store at their Bay Center/Wallapa Bay KOA Bay Center, Wash., an oyster and crab fishing village of 400 people located on a point jutting into a bay off the Pacific coast. The 65-site campground is open from April 1 to Dec. 1 but the store is open all year.

Why?

“Mostly, it’s important in our mind to be part of the community and help out,” said Iris. “The next closest store is a 30-minute drive. It helps the community. They know we’re here.”

In winter, the Shupes stock fewer camping supplies and more of what local residents might want, she explained. Those same customers remain loyal through the summer as well.

The Shupes break even over the winter, but still consider the effort worthwhile.

Not only have the Shupes extended the store season since buying the campground in 2011, they’ve also extended the season from October to the first of December to accommodate hunters.

What Campground Stores Carry

The 2010 economic survey conducted by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) provided lots of data on campground stores. Among its findings were these most common items carried in stores:

  • 98% carried RV supplies and accessories.
  • 94% carried ice cream.
  • 91% carried personal care items.
  • 80% carried dry groceries.
  • 80% carried souvenirs and gifts.
  • 76% carried T-shirts and sweatshirts.
  • 75% carried toys.
  • 73% carried hats.
  • 71% carried sundries.
  • 69% carried dairy products.
  • 67% carried recreational equipment.
  • 40% carried frozen foods.
  • 39% carried bakery products.
  • 36% carried magazines and newspapers.
  • 33% carried beer and wine.
  • 11% carried fresh fruit or vegetables.

 

Ocean Lakes to Host Beach n’ Boogie Event

January 31, 2013 by · Comments Off on Ocean Lakes to Host Beach n’ Boogie Event 

 

A moment from a previous Beach n’ Boogie event at Ocean Lakes Family Campground.

Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C., will host its 13th Annual Beach n’ Boogie Weekend Feb. 15-16.

Beach music and fun activities are just a few of the things that will be available for the entire family. The celebration is exclusively for guests of the campground, according to a news release.

The festivities will kick off on Friday, Feb. 15, with a performance from Men of Distinction from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and kids’ games and crafts will take place during the show. On Saturday, Feb. 16, shag lessons will be conducted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. by Judy Duke, and Jim Quick & Coastline will wrap up the day from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. (special activities for children will also take place).

“We’ve organized this 2013 event to be the best Beach n’ Boogie Weekend yet,” said Barb Krumm, director of marketing and public relations at Ocean Lakes Family Campground. “There are festivities for all ages, focused on fun for mom and dad and all the kids. Many guests compliment us on the smoke-free, alcohol-free, family-friendly environment.”

Tickets for the Beach n’ Boogie Weekend are $20 for adults and $5 for children 4 to 11. Each ticket entitles a participant to a wristband that is good for admission to all events. The wristband must be worn at all times. All events will be held in the Recreation Center. For information, contact the Marketing Assistant and Events Coordinator at: info@oceanlakes.com or (843) 828-4833.

Ocean Lakes have also planned several additional weekends with special activities for its guests. They include: Quilt Gala (Feb. 22-23), 15th Annual Bluegrass Weekend (Aug. 23-24), Gospel Weekend (Sept. 13-15), Fall Craft Fair (Sept. 21), three Halloween weekends (beginning on Oct. 18 and ending Nov. 3), and Polar Bear Plunge (Dec. 31).

“We believe the special weekends we plan are some of the reasons that Ocean Lakes received an “A” grade for customer satisfaction from GuestRated year after year,” said Krumm. “We’re the only campground in the Carolinas to be included in the top 2% based on this consumer survey. It’s gratifying to hear how much our guests are enjoying these events and their stays at Ocean Lakes.”

For more information about Ocean Lakes, visit www.oceanlakes.com, follow it on Twitter or “like” the campground on Facebook

Ocean Lakes Campground Expands RV Storage

January 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Ocean Lakes Campground Expands RV Storage 

 

The East’s largest campground is just getting bigger.

Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is expanding and overhauling its camper storage lot to meet growing demand.

The land that’s usually covered in campers is under construction, with crews adding 225 storage spaces, straightening the roads in the lot and expanding the storage area to keep up with the increase in guests wanting to leave their RVs there, the Myrtle Beach Sun News reported.

“We are just running out of space to park them,” said Lance Thompson, Ocean Lakes’ general manager.

All the campers that were in storage there have been moved to other parking areas and to unused campsites while the work is being done. The work started a couple of weeks ago and should be ready by March 15 just before the spring and Easter crowds start trickling in, Thompson said.

Ocean Lakes has about 2,300 campers in storage this time of year, about 200 more than usual, he said.

“That’s a good sign for us,” Thompson said. “It does look like the economy is turning a little bit.”

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