Editor's Note: The following story by Kristopher Bunker appears in the June issue of Woodall's Campground Management.
While park models retain their stronghold on the destination-camping market, some OEM destination trailers continue to make noise.
Ambiguously referred to as everything from park models to “extended-stay trailers” — and, now, augmented by a new wave of “destination”-style hybrid towables generated by an array of North American recreational vehicle manufacturers — the growing trend among outdoor enthusiasts to own a unit that can be left at a campsite all season or all year may be the newest wrinkle in camping, but the units themselves are not for the most part altogether new in general concept.
Park models have, in fact, long been a reliable source of income for campground owners. More or less permanently located at a campsite, park models are a good way for campgrounds to not only cater to RV owners looking for a more residential-type camping experience, but also to draw in the non-RVing crowd to stimulate their bottom line with overnight fees that tend to dwarf those of average sites.
Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) have reported that demand for park models has risen dramatically over the past year, with registration revenues climbing to around 20% in both cases for 2012.
Given the scope of the market, it’s not surprising then that manufacturers of more “traditional” RVs have definitely taken notice, with a number of them beefing up existing models — or creating entirely new ones — in order to join the fray.
Coined “destination trailers,” these towables are generally larger and heavier than their conventional counterparts, and also include residential touches like bay windows, patio doors and larger refrigerators.
But should they be considered true park models, or do they even want to be?
A park model is defined by the ANSI A119.5 standard as “A vehicular-type unit primarily designed as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping or travel use, which either has its own motive power or is drawn by another vehicle.” NEC Article 552 goes on to add that to be considered a park model, a unit must meet the following criteria: “Built on a single chassis mounted on wheels, and having a gross trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet in the set-up mode.” We’re no doubt accus- tomed to seeing the 12-foot-wide park models at campgrounds, whether they’re bungalow-type units, casitas or even yurts (to some extent), but it may be difficult to discern one of the “new breed” of park models, especially considering they’re built on 8- or 8 1/2-foot wide footprints.
This new breed of destination trailer, however, does offer a distinct advantage.
“One of the major advantages an 8 1/2- foot-wide trailer like the Bay Point Destination Park Trailer has over a 12-wide park model is the ability to affordably move or transport the trailer yourself or have any small truck transport company move the unit for you,” says Terry Hiser, sales and marketing director for Recreation by Design RV. “The 12-wide park models require a large commercial transport truck and a CDL-licensed driver at significantly higher freight costs.”
One of the primary draws of destination trailers — in addition to the fact they don’t generally need to be professionally transported and set up, as do park models — is price; buyers can get a unit with a more “residential” feel without the associated year-round campsite rental fees or steeper up-front costs.
“A unit from our DST lineup is generally more affordable than a typical park model unit,”explained Ben Johnson, Jayco’s Jay Flight brand manager. “It’s also more versa- tile in how customers can use it,” he added. “Our DST comes standard with holding tanks, for instance, so owners can use them in a more traditional campground space. And while DST certainly isn’t considered a lightweight product line, it’s much lighter than most park model lines, making it easier to move around when someone wants a change of scenery.”
Despite the continued presence of these OEM-designed trailers, however, conventional park-model builders don’t seem too concerned when comparing the two customer bases. “There will continue to be two separate markets until campgrounds up-grade their parks in lot size and sewer systems to accommodate the 12-foot units, and that is costly,” says Larry Weaver, sales manager at Dutch Park Homes, which builds both park models and destination trailers.
Echoing the industry sentiment that the destination-trailer market shouldn’t have too much of an impact on park model sales is Gary Duncan, general manager of Forest River’s Park Model division. “The two products tend to attract two different types of customers,” he said. “The towable customer is most likely buying that product because they do indeed intend to tow it from one destination to another, even if only occasionally. The 12-wide buyer is a single-destination customer, looking for a ‘home away from home’ to be located at heir favorite campground, park or other property.”
Destination-trailer manufacturers, for their part, aren’t exactly declaring war on park-model builders; they also consider their trailers a niche-market offering with little overlap. “To a certain extent they compete — but they are also two separate markets,” said Jim Mac, communications director at Keystone RV. “Park homes are made to be placed and permanently sited; a destination trailer can be permanently parked but has the option of being easily moved should the owner need a change of scenery.”
One advantage park model manufacturers do claim to hold over destination trailers is more durable construction. Park models, they maintain, are often built with larger, more residential materials such as 2 x 4-insulated exterior walls and engineered roof trusses. “We build a very heavy product that I believe is safer and gives owners a more ‘like home’ feel,” noted Dick Grymonprez. director of park model sales at Cham- pion/Athens Park Homes. “Whether you are looking for a second home, a weekend getaway or something to rent in an RV park, you just can’t beat a park model RV.”
But destination trailers — not exactly lit- tle tear-drop trailers — feature some of the same rugged construction of the park model lines. “Keystone destination trailers are built on 12-inch I-frame beams and typically weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds,” said Keystone’s Jim Mac.
Whether a park model or a destination trailer, most agree, the most important thing is exposing people to the great outdoors. “Park models of all types can benefit from the explosive growth in popularity of destination camping and RVing,” said Dan Allgyer, owner of Fork Creek Homes.
U.S. park model builders played a central role during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s annual RVIA Committee Week, held June 2-6 at the historic Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington D.C. – more so than they have in years.
In an era when camping is trending in some cases toward more long-term stays involving an array of destination-style vehicles and camping cabins, RVIA has been focusing a lot of attention on park trailer builders who last year agreed to rejoin RVIA after an absence of 18 years and shelve their existing trade group, the Recreation Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
And it quickly became evident that park trailer companies are comfortable with their new association ties during Committee Week, where RVIA’s board of directors endorsed committee recommendations to change the name of the association’s “Destination Camping Committee” to the “Seasonal Camping Committee” to better reflect common use of those terms among RV park operators and the camping public.
RVIA, for public relations and marketing purposes, will now refer to these types of units as “Park Model RV’s” while using either of the terms “Recreational Park Trailers” or “Park Model RV’s” for regulatory and standards purposes. Behind the new nomenclature is a desire on the part of park model builders, the national trade association and many campground operators to accentuate their status as recreation vehicles that are essentially mobile and distinct from housing whenever such questions might arise among consumers, zoning boards and taxing bodies in the future.
“Really, it’s a rebranding effort,” reports Park Model RV Committee Chairman John Soard, general manager of Fairmont Park Models, a division of Nappanee, Ind.-based Fairmont Homes Inc. “We for a long time in the park model business have just wanted to be affiliated more closely with what HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) calls us, which is an RV, and we’ve just never had the word ‘RV’ in the actual name of the product. We wanted to have that name – RV – in there, and we are now ‘Park Model RV’s.’”
Soard is pleased with the RVIA staff support his company and the other 23 park trailer manufacturers who have joined RVIA since last year have been receiving in a number of ways — from seals to marketing to shipment reports — under the watch of Matt Wald, executive director of park model RV’s for RVIA.
“Those items are all important,” said Soard. “You have government affairs working hard to get a list of the code states and what their issues are and how to define park models. That was huge, and so was getting accurate shipping data. That’s a big deal, and we were very pleased with how that came about. Getting us RV seals was very helpful. Then, there’s the Show Committee integrating us back into the Louisville Show. That was a big deal for us as well.
“Again,” he added, “all of this took staff’s time and effort to get things done for us. These are all things that we all, as a committee, wanted to be addressed, and they were handled very professionally. All things considered, the recognition within RVIA of the seasonal camping market and how big it is, that was a big deal to us. I’d say, overall, it’s been an incredible first year with RVIA, and I’m very pleased how smoothly the transition has been going.”
Seasonal Camping Committee member Tim Gage, vice president over park models and cabins for Phoenix-based RV and manufactured home builder Cavco Industries Inc., agrees with Soard’s assessment.
“I think that the direction we’re headed in is going to be definitely positive for our segment of the RV industry,” says Gage, whose company in June introduced a new parkmodels.com website. “And I like the new branding, so to speak, as a ‘Park Model RV.’ That’s really what we are. I think that things have gone well.”
Gage appreciates the “phenomenal support” of Wald, who told WCM that standards inspections were the most pressing priority over the past year in integrating these new companies, which together account for about 3,000 units a year — a fairly small number vs. the RV industry’s estimated total wholesale shipment numbers of 310,000 for 2013. In fact, Wald says the need for consistent and professional standards inspections was one of the main reasons the park model sector wanted to rejoin RVIA in the first place after exiting in 1994.
“Everybody (park trailer builders) was very nervous about how that was going to go,” said Wald. “They had 20 years of experience with third-party inspectors who took a very different approach to the inspection than our inspectors do. Ultimately, the (RVIA) inspectors have found a very high degree of conformance with ANSI 119.5 (the park model standard) among the OEMS.”
Pinnacle Park Homes Inc., a park model and camping cabin manufacturer based in Ochlocknee, Ga., is celebrating its 10th year in business.
"We are one entire quarter ahead in sales compared to last year and that says a lot since sales last year surpassed sales in 2010 and 2011" Andy Davis, sales manager, stated in a news release. "While the last three years were very good years for Pinnacle Park Homes, we can see 2013 being even better."
"We have expanded our workforce to meet the demand," added Randy Stewart Jr., production manager and owner.
"Ten years is a milestone. We are the same company with the same owners that started out 10 years ago. To make it this long we have changed with the needs of our clients," said Stewart, "but our roots have not changed and that is to build the very best cabin possible.
"We are continuing to add new floorplans that meet the needs of campground owners. We have asked for input and have received many suggestions that have been implemented in our newest floorplans say owner," Stewart added.
"With destination camping on the rise, we can only see orders increasing. With a growing backlog we cannot stress enough the importance that campground owners need to plan ahead and place their orders early," Davis said.
"Pinnacle Park Homes takes pride in delivering a durable, quality-built cabin on time, " said Stewart. "We want all campground owners to know that they will get what they ordered so that they can begin to profit off their investment as quickly as possible," Davis added.
For more information contact Pinnacle Park Homes at (866) 574-5159 or visit their website at www.pinnacleparkhomes.com.
La Hacienda RV Resort & Cottages in Austin, Texas, is adding seven more park model cabins this month, and will likely add more in the future as demand for rental accommodations in RV resorts continues to grow, according to a news release.
“The park model cabin business has truly been a pleasant experience for us,” said park developer Ken Butschek. “I am experiencing about 15% annual growth on RV site rentals, but 30% on my park model rentals. I’m probably going to need 10 more next year.”
The 400-square-foot units, designed and built by Champion/Athens Park Homes, are sought after by families and Winter Texans as well as people on temporary work assignments in the Austin area who don’t want to commit to a six-month lease in an apartment.
“The park models give these people much more flexibility,” Butschek said, adding that Winter Texans who do not have motorhomes or towable RVs also rent them out during the winter season. “This past winter, of my 30 park model cabins, I think I had 15 of them rented out for one to three months by Winter Texans,” he said.
And while campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas and across the country are increasingly installing park models to use as rental units for guests who do not have an RV, La Hacienda RV Resort is raising consumer awareness about its park model rentals through its website and rack cards, both of which just won awards from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
La Hacienda RV Resort won TACO’s Website of the Year Award for its namesake website at www.lahaciendarvpark.com, which showcases the interiors and exteriors of every park model available for rent. The website also highlight’s the park’s amenities and services and provides ample photos of the resort’s swimming pool, 24-hour exercise room; 4-hole chip and putt course; dog park; laundry facilities and ADA-friendly bathroom.
The Website of the Year Award is based on the effectiveness of the website’s promotion of the park; the quality of its content; navigation and functionality; site layout; professional appearance; user friendliness; usefulness of links; visual depictions; posting of current information and resort updates; and ease of finding contact information for the park.
La Hacienda RV Resort also won TACO’s Rack Card of the Year Award, which is awarded based on visibility; appearance and content quality; readability; appeal; use of color; layout; effectiveness at promoting the park and area activities; use of maps as a directional aid; and ease in determining park contact information. La Hacienda RV Resort’s award winning rack card was designed and produced by Crowley-based Texas Advertising.
For more information on La Hacienda RV Resort & Cottages, please visit its website at www.lahaciendarvpark.com.
Based in Crowley, TACO represents nearly 400 private campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas. The association was established in 1972 by a group of five campground owners who felt there should be independent marketing and advocacy for the private park industry in Texas. In addition to its legislative advocacy and annual park awards program, TACO publishes the RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas, a significant consumer magazine with a distribution of 250,000, and it hosts www.TexasCampgrounds.com, the most widely used website for RV parks and campgrounds in Texas. The association also promotes Texas campgrounds in over 25 RV shows in the US and Canada.
Retail sales of towable RVs declined 1.7% in December compared to December 2011, but still finished the year up 8.3% over the year earlier, Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI) has reported.
Travel trailers, which showed a 2.8% increase in December, was the only one of four segments to show year-over-year growth that month.
Fifth-wheels showed an 8% drop, folding camping trailers fell 1.4% and park models or recreational park trailers finished the month off 39.4%.
For the entire year, the high volume travel trailer market finished up 11.4%, fifth-wheels ended up 5.8%, folding camping trailers were off 10.5% and park models fell 17%.
For December, Thor Industries Inc. held onto its No. 1 spot in all towables with a 36.9% share, followed by the Forest River Group with a 31.7% share. Jayco Inc. was a distant third with a 9.6% share.
For all of 2012, Thor held a 36.6% share of the towables market, with Forest River at 32.6% and Jayco third at 11.8%.
- In travel trailers, Thor had a 31.1% share in December and 33.1% for all of 2012.
- In fifth-wheels, Thor had a commanding 53.3% share in December and 53.6% share for all of 2012.
- In folding camping trailers, Forest River had a solid 43.1% share in December and a 44.3% share for all of 2012.
- In park models, Thor had a 27.7% share in December as well as for the entire year.
In a month-to-month look at the four segments, travel trailer sales increased each month compared to the corresponding month of 2011. Meanwhile, fifth-wheel sales showed increases nine of the 12 months, folding camping trailers showed sales declines in each of the 12 months and park models showed increases in just two months.
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
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.
Management: Kermit Kropf, president
Contact Information: 2249 Lincolnway East, Goshen, IN 46526; (574) 533-8090; fax (574) 533-8210; www.dutchpark.com
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 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
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
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
Editor's Note: The following story is excerpted from the February issue of Woodall's Campground Management. On Thursday, www.woodallscm.com will conclude this story with further comments from the nation's leading builders of park models, cabins and yurts.
A survey the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) commissioned last summer through Precision Research, an Arizona-based firm that has done previous work for RVIA, revealed some broad misunderstandings or confusion about some aspects of the park trailer industry.
The firm surveyed 400 RVers and 400 non-RVers. Results showed consumers in general don’t recognize the phrases “recreational park trailer” or “destination camping” but have a far better understanding of phrases such as “park models” and “seasonal camping," Matt Wald, the RVIA’s recreational park trailer executive director, told WCM.
To help clear up the confusion, the RVIA’s ad hoc Destination Camping Committee that commissioned the study has recommended to the RVIA board that it adopt the phrases park model and seasonal camping and drop the other terms. The board will take up the recommendations at its March meeting, Wald said.
In the meantime, the Destination Camping Committee and the Recreational Park Trailer committees, whose names may be changed pending the RVIA board action, won’t be meeting again until Committee Week in June, Wald said.
Trough Not As Deep As Commonly Thought
The decline that the park model industry has sustained since reaching an all-time high of 10,143 wholesale shipments in 2006 is not as deep as it is often portrayed, Wald pointed out to WCM. Shipments have tailed off each year since then and have not topped 4,000 in either of the last two years.
However, what was counted as a park model in previous years creates a proverbial “apples and oranges” dilemma.
Up until 2007, not only was the economy stronger than it is today, but also until then all trailer-type units that measured between 320 and 400 square feet were counted as a park model. Starting in 2008, RVIA allowed travel trailers to be built up to 400 square feet rather than limiting them to 320 square feet. Since then, many units that would have been counted as 8 ½-foot-wide park models are now rightfully counted as travel trailers.
“Overall, it looks like a desperate fall,” Wald said. “But if you look just at the over-8½-foot-wide-park models, it still is down but not nearly as much as the overall number would seem to indicate. In fact, it is right in line with other RV types.”
And Wald and the RVIA report some success in tackling the task of accurate record keeping to track wholesale shipments of park models. Until July 2012, shipments were tracked by the RPTIA. Figures for the first half of 2012 were spotty and incomplete and, according to Wald, understate actual production figures. For that reason, monthly RVIA wholesale shipment reports do not provide a year-over-year tabulation for park models for the entire year.
But Wald has coaxed park model manufacturers to go back in their 2012 records to try to recreate a better accounting of their production for the first half of the year. Once better accounting is complete, Wald hopes RVIA will be able soon to report a more complete picture for comparison purposes.
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.
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.
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
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.
The Vineyards Campground & Cabins is finding growing demand for its fully furnished park model cabins, even in winter, according to a news release.
“We were sold out over Christmas. We were tremendously busy,” said Joe Moore, general manager of the 93-site campground, which has 13 cabins, several of which are featured online at www.vineyardscampground.com.
But while consumers have always had the ability to reserve these cabins online, they haven’t had the ability to rent specific cabins based on the photographs they see online — until now.
Thanks to a recently completed website enhancement by TXAD Internet Services, the Vineyards Campground now has a separate cabin page on its website that gives consumers the ability to rent the specific cabin they like most, based on the photographs and floor plans presented online.
“This way, people can see what they’re getting and there are no surprises,” Moore said.
The website previously had a selection of cabin photos, but there were no descriptions or floorplans which raised more questions than they answered. “People kept asking, which cabin is cabin 3 or cabin 4 or cabin 10. People want to know what they’re getting,” Moore said. “They want to know where the bedrooms and bathrooms are located, where the kitchen is and where the front door is and if there’s a view of the lake.”
But with the new website layout, consumers can now see that the Vineyards Campground offers seven different cabin floor plans. They can see a series of photos for each cabin and also check out the views from each cabin’s front porch. The website’s reservation system also helps consumers select the units that meet their needs, based on their lodging requirements.
Moore said the new system has simplified the online cabin reservation process for consumers, while reducing front desk staff time on reservation questions.
The cabin section upgrades are the latest improvements TXAD Internet Services has made to the Vineyards Campground’s website. The company previously developed a scaled down version of the website to make it compatible with mobile devices.
Based in Crowley, TXAD Internet Services is a leading provider of marketing, advertising and website design services for the campground industry with a national client base of more than 800 privately owned campgrounds, RV parks and resorts.
The Vineyards Campground & Cabins was recently named Small Park of the Year by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) as well as the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
The Vineyards Campground & Cabins was also one of only 44 campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the country to earn an all around "A" grade in the fifth annual GuestRated.com satisfaction survey of independent parks. More than 30,000 camping and RV enthusiasts completed reviews in the GuestRated.com online survey, grading their experiences at 3,200 independent RV parks and campgrounds.
Champion Home Builders Inc. announced today (Aug. 8) that as part of its recent acquisition of Athens Park Homes of Athens, Texas, it will be expanding the popular Athens Park Homes brand of park models to a broader program and will be building them at strategically placed plants throughout the U.S.
The targeted locations include Champion facilities in Chandler, Ariz., Weiser, Idaho, York, Neb., Athens, Texas, Sangerfield, N.Y., Lillington, N.C., and Lake City, Fla., according to a news release
Dick Grymonprez, currently vice president of sales and marketing for Athens Park Homes, has been named Champion’s director of national park model sales. Grymonprez has many years of experience in park model sales and is currently president of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and serves on the board of the directors of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), as well as the park trailer and destination camping committee.
"I am really excited about the opportunity to combine the strengths of our two companies," said Grymonprez. "Athens Park Homes is recongnized as a national brand. However, with rising freight prices the logistical challenge of shipping from only one location in Texas has impacted our ability to compete nationwide. Our expanded footprint gives us the opportunity to provide the very best in park model homes and cabins to more of our customers at a lower price."
Athens Park Homes are currently sold through retailers, developers and campground owners in 37 states as well as Finland and Japan.
Troy, Michigan-based Champion Home Builders Inc. is a leader in factory-built construction which, through its operations and those of its affiliates, manufactures products at 29 facilities in North America and the United Kingdom and distributes its products through independent retailers, builders and developers. The Champion family of builders produces manufactured, modular and park model homes, as well as modular buildings for government and commercial applications. For more information, please visit www.championhomes.com.