September '15

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116 • RV PRO • SEPTEMBER 2015 rv-pro.com DEALER TRENDS: By Charlotte Sikes Boats and RVs play well together, according to dealerships that sell both. In some regions, the busy seasons in both markets overlap while in others they are opposite, offering off-season opportunities. With market spe- cialties that vary by geographical region, customer demographics and owner preferences, the marine market complements the RV market well. Recently, RV PRO asked dealers with a presence in both markets for their experiences selling boats and RVs side by side. Ron Chriswell, sales manager Park-A-Way RV & Marine Super Center Chubbuck, Idaho "During the recession, the boat market was impacted in that people were holding off on spending, but there were still some – just like with the RV market – some people who weren't going to let the recession keep them from buying. The boat market mirrored the RV market. "The turndown depended on what you carry. We do a lot of jet boats and aluminum boats. We're in river country and those buyers are typically older with higher incomes. They like to fish, and that kept that market going. We saw our fiberglass boats take a hit. We still carry Bayliner, but the fiberglass market cooled off dramatically; the entry-level boats that younger people pick up didn't do so well. "The market probably started to turn around in 2011. There was that tremendous dip at the end of 2008. So 2009 was down, 2010 was still down but starting to move back up, and 2011 started to pick back up. "I think it varies by dealer. It varies by region. If you have a dealer who is proactive about marketing and thinking outside the box – that is one reason we did a good job. We are aggressive about advertising, and we actually take boats out and demo them, and that's a lot of work. "We're an inland farming community but we have a reservoir and the rivers, and if somebody is interested we will take them on a demo. Like everything else, if they can touch it, feel it and experi- ence it they're much more likely to buy. "We are very aggressive on trades and putting money in them. It's no different from the RV industry. Some models are outliers that are rare or not a good boat or RV, and those are the ones we have challenges with, but with a standard average trade we will put good money in it and turn it around after we run it through the shop. "What sets us apart is our 50,000-square-foot shop – that's big. We've been in continuous business for 52 years, the oldest dealer in the region and possibly in the state. We started out with Kit Companion. Boats came along here in 2009-10. We entered the boat market in the skinny years. That's what I mean by thinking out of the box. "It's a very good synergy between boats and RVs. The people who see that we carry boats will trade RVs for boats, or boats for RVs. Some customers will buy both. The boats we carry – mostly aluminum – they retain their value. A good aluminum boat with a jet system will hold its value. We give people top dollar for trades and word-of-mouth gets around that we're fair, we pay top dollar, and we back up our sales and service departments. "We've got one big facility that used to be a steel fabrication shop we bought when they upgraded. We have separate teams in our service department; the techs who work on boats don't typi- cally work on RVs. We have some fantastic specialists. We also have a dedicated water building to check engines without having to actually go out to a body of water. We do repair and maintenance on boats from Jackson Lake and Yellowstone, and we are building up a good clientele list of big names. "We have a four-person sales staff. They do sell both RVs and boats. I've got guys who are super strong with RVs or super strong with boats, but I like the sales staff cross-training. There are times we get somebody in on a boat and if the boat guys aren't in, we need to handle that customer. I get the factory reps from both the RV side and the boat side out here to do training with my sales staff. "Our strongest seller – our bread and butter – is the smaller travel trailers; typically 19- to 28-foot 'stick and tin' metal-sided trailers. We do well with those because they are less expensive. "A lot of our clients are first-time buyers and are not typically in the market for the big fifth wheelers. I carry top-of-the-line Keystone, Heartland and Forest River products. I feel very good about our lines. We cover entry, mid and highest of the high levels; we have to have something for everybody. Retailing Boats and RVs

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