March '17

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rv-pro.com March 2017 • RV PRO • 39 Citte says. "The panels themselves have really come down in price and that's one of the item's we've really promoted as having the cheapest price. We'll break even or even lose some money on the sale because we'll make some money back on the install. "That is probably one of the biggest trends we've seen," he notes of the increasing prominence of technology in units. "We also use a similar sales strategy on generators. We compete heavily on price and get that customer into the store and familiar with us; you've got to be competitive on those big-ticket items." Citte says the dealership – which has won numerous awards for sales volume with various product lines over the years – is seeing a return of younger, affluent buyers in the marketplace. "Before 2008, we had a real surge of younger age groups that were buying trailers," Citte says. "In 2007-2008, we lost a lot of the younger buyers and most of our customers were in the 50-, 60- and 70-year-old range. Now that the economy is recovering, we're seeing the younger couples in their 30s and 40s coming back, which is great." To keep up to date with current trends in the industry – and the preferences among those returning, younger customers – Ray Citte RV staff takes advantage of training and other resources offered by the RV Dealers Association and the RV Industry Association. It also relies heavily on The Spader Group, where participating dealers share best practices, and which Citte says has played a huge role in helping the dealership weather the economic downturn. "We've been a member of that group for about 20 years," he says. "I recall a meeting in 2007 when the facilitator said that we'd likely be missing a few members by that time the following year. I really think that having that group – and one led by a former dealer who could relate to all aspects of the business – was critical to our survival during a tough time." Having weathered that tough time, Citte says he's excited about what's to come in the future for Ray Citte RV. Although there are no major expansion plans on the horizon, the goal is to lead the dealership until it's time for him to step back and hand over the reins to the third generation. That doesn't mean he'll be going too far away, himself, however. "My dad gave me the reins when he was around 60 because he wanted to travel more, and I'll get to that point myself," he says. "My sons have done detail, tech, they've been service writers, worked in parts and sales – pretty much everything. They are well-prepared to run the company with a little guidance from time to time. "But I feel very fortunate to work in this business," he adds. "Customers like camping because it's a pleasurable experience, and that makes the business more congenial. You don't ever have to arm-wrestle a customer. "Overall, I just know that not everyone has had the chances I had, and I hope the next generation will feel the same," he says. "As for me, I'll pull away at some point, but I won't go far. This is still where I want to hang out."

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