April '14

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rv-pro.com April 2014 • RV PRo • 75 And, Bowerman and omas say, there has rarely been a better time than 2014 to enter the market with a new unit. Industry- wide, retail sales of fifth wheels were solid in 2013, up every month on a year-over-year basis and ended the year up 16.4 percent on the sale of 54,740 units, according to Statistical Surveys data. ARV's 75 dealers sold a fraction of that 2013 total, but are in line to get a bigger piece of the pie in 2014. A Lengthy History Serving the RV Market omas is no stranger to the rigors of startups. His original RV venture, RV supplier Adorn, was a 1986 startup company, which grew to $100 million in sales and 400 employees before he sold it in 2000 to private equity firm Linsalata Partners. He remained on the board as CEO until its subsequent sale to Elkhart-based Patrick Industries in 2007. Meanwhile, omas also invested in Topeka-based Crossroads RV with Duane Rheinheimer. In three years, the business grew from about $3 million in annual sales to close to $70 million and 200 employees. ey eventually sold the business to or Industries in 2004. For his ARV venture, omas has taken on some of the company's management team as owners. ey include Jeff Miller, CFO; Randy Nielsen, vice president of customer care; and Bowerman. omas concedes the startup process has been slow going. When asked if the company is positioned where he wanted it to be after the first two years, omas replies, "Well, I would say 'yes' to this with my tongue in cheek, because sometimes building a startup sometimes is like eating glass and staring into the abyss. I wish I thought of that description, but Elon Musk (entrepreneur and engineer) said that to a reporter in one of his interviews, and I thought to myself, yes, that is what it's like! ey always take twice as long as you think to get going and take about twice the money as well!" Along with a sense of humor, omas exhibits some patience, too. "In the next five years, we hope to have established a brand that will be known as the best-built, highest-quality product brand on the market, with the emphasis on the end consumer. It is so important to get that image of quality and back it up every time so the product can grow, thrive and succeed. at is the way we build on our reputation to have a company in 10 years and then 15 years. "Making the customer feel they are impor- tant to us," he adds. "e customer is No. 1, because if you don't get that communicated to the customer, you won't be in business long enough to find out what kind of a company you might have had if you don't take care of the customers that got you there!" it arrived in Iowa. He showed it at the Council Bluffs retail show, where he says, "98 percent of the people who looked at it said it was nicer than their house." Bowerman and omas say they believe the time over the winter was well spent in positioning the Luxe right where it should be in the fifth wheel market. While they missed the start of the winter retail show circuit, they believe good marketing going forward will make up for lost time. "We did miss part of the show season, but we are moving along to make some shows in the spring," Bowerman says. "Retail shows are the best for debuting a product like this. We want to have a place in this market with the Luxe and I honestly feel we will by the end of the season." A residential feel permeates the kitchen of the Luxe with the residential-style appliances, including a 23-cubic-foot refrigerator, a four-burner range with convection oven, and a microwave. Left: Kitchen amenities in the Luxe include an additional water faucet at the cooktop wall, 1-inch glass backsplash, and a range hood with an exhaust fan. RVPApr.indd 75 3/19/14 3:09 PM

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