Worst to best: Sales rebound for West Slope RV dealer

Phil Castle, The Business Times

If Ken Bunge and Paul Roach were to plot sales at Humphrey RV for April and May, they say the graph would look a lot like the letter V.

With operations restricted in response to the coronavirus pandemic, April was the worst month in a decade for the nearly 20-year-old Western Colorado recreational vehicle dealership. May, on the other hand, was the best month for unit sales at the company’s Grand Junction location.

Bunge, general manager at Humphrey RV, describes the change in another way: “Business went from 0 to 100 miles per hour.”

Roach, owner of Humphrey RV, attributes the rapid reversal of fortune to an effect of the pandemic of a different sort. People are eager to get out of the homes in which they’ve hunkered down and travel, but want to do so in ways that don’t involve commercial flights or cruise ships. “For a lot of folks, they’re ready to get rid of cabin fever.”

Campers, trailers and other types of recreational vehicles offer a solution, he says.

While the future is anything but assured, Bunge and Roach say they’re confident moving forward.

“We are very optimistic,” Bunge says. “But we have to be cautious.”

Roach says one proverbial silver lining of the pandemic was an opportunity to reorganize departments. “I think we’re going to come out of this pandemic stronger as a result.”

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home orders and business closures that followed affected Humphrey RV, Bunge and Roach say.

While online sales work for other businesses, even automotive dealerships, they don’t work for RV dealerships, they say. Customer want to not only see RVs, but get inside them and check them out in person.

Given the restrictions, Humphrey RV closed its Montrose location and furloughed most of the staff at its Grand Junction location. RV shows in which the dealership usually participated were canceled.

Circumstances required that difficult decisions be made quickly to reduce expenses to match reduce revenues,  Roach says. “It came at us so fast.”

Bunge says sales in April were the worst in a decade for Humphrey RV, one of the largest RV dealers in Colorado.

As restrictions eased in May,  businesses were allowed to resume operations on at least a limited basis. Humphrey RV asked that customers schedule appointments to view vehicles. All RVs are sanitized between showings and remained locked between showings.

Business rebounded in May, Roach says, and resulted in one of the highest months for unit sales at the Grand Junction location. Says Bunge: “Once May hit, we took off.”

Humphrey RV reopened its Montrose location and brought back most of the employees at its Montrose and Grand Junction locations.

The restricts and furloughs afforded an opportunity to reorganize the various departments at Humphrey RV and has resulted in a better operation, Roach says.

Moving forward,  Bunge and Roach say they expect demand for recreational vehicles to remain strong as people look for ways to travel and vacation, but without commercial air travel or cruises. Since many people have postponed vacations, they also expect the travel season to extend later into the fall.

A shortage of vehicles and parts could pose some issues because the pandemic also closed manufacturers. But Humphrey RV maintains one of the largest inventories in the region, Bunge and Roach say.

While the pandemic, closures and subsequent reopening have been challenging, Bunge and Roach say they’re grateful to customers and staff for making the graph of sales look more like a V than an elongated L.

Humphrey RV operates locations at 2749 U.S. Highway 50 in Grand Junction and 4088 N. Townsend Ave. in Montrose. For more information, call the Grand Junction location at 256-7338 or Montrose location at 240-8503 or visit www.humphreyrv.com.