RV business booming in midst of soft economy

The interiors of many recreational vehicles contain all the comforts of home. A trade group projects that RV deliveries to retail outlets will increase 9 percent this year as consumers stay close to home. (Business Times photo by Mike Moran)

During economic downturns, people often plan their vacations with an eye toward staying close to home. And if one happens to live in a beautiful state known for its variety of outdoor attractions, such a scenario can be as enjoyable as spending thousands of dollars to travel thousands of miles.

Such is the case with Colorado residents. And they might choose to stay close to home even if they have the budget to spend those thousands of dollars.

“People are not wanting to go to Europe,” said Brad Humphrey, owner of Humphrey RV and Trailer in Grand Junction. “Instead of going to Europe, they can buy a trailer.”

If sales tax collections from the City of Grand Junction are any indication, people in the Grand Valley haven’t been shy about spending on autos and campers, the types of vehicles that carry people into the great outdoors. Tax collections associated with spending on autos and campers in Grand Junction totalled $5.2 million last year — or 7.5 percent higher than in 2009 — even as overall sales tax collections dropped more than 2 percent.

Humphrey can top that story. He said sales at his recreational vehicle business doubled last year compared to 2009.

Some of the increase can be attributed to better economic conditions, but he thinks quality products and service are primary reasons. “We just think it’s the culmination of the last 10 years.”

He said part of the increase is due to repeat business from customers who enjoyed good experiences with their first purchases. Nearly all of his campers are KZ brand vehicles. The company’s variety of RVs and two-year warranties offer advantages for his customers and his business, he added.

Humphrey also boasts a building expansion that occurred during a recession. He added 7,500 square feet to the service area and 3,800 square feet to the indoor showroom and parts store. The offices he designed for employees don’t resemble standard business spaces. A manager’s office, for example, appears to be a hunting and fishing cabin. “I wanted to do something special for our people,” Humphrey said.

But Humphrey said the prime reason for the expansion was his top priority —customers. “I felt we have the best customers and they deserve it.”

On a national scale, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association projects a

9 percent increase in the number of RVs shipped to retail outlets this year. About 242,000 vehicles were shipped to dealers in 2010.

If Humphrey stays the course, he could see an even larger increase than the national average in 2011.


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