June '18

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rv-pro.com June 2018 • RV PRO • 19 small changes in retail numbers tend to have a larger impact in the statistics than for the big volume towable market. For these reasons, he says the retail picture depicted by Statistical Surveys data is somewhat clouded. Duncan concedes that the limits on where a park model can be parked continue to hamper the industry. "Some campgrounds don't allow park models in," he notes. "A lot of people want to put them on private property. That can be a problem because whether you can or can't is determined by local building codes. Most often, you can't." The biggest change for Forest River has been "the amount of customization we're asked to do. We take pieces and parts of various floorplans or maybe a different manufacturer's floorplan and are asked to put it together. Extra tall people want higher bathroom and bedroom ceilings. Bigger people want bigger doorways. They want 'this' kitchen versus a standard kitchen. And they specify cabinet placement. "We accommodate them where we can," Duncan adds. "That's where the market is today. Nobody's building a cookie cutter today. That makes it difficult for purchasing and man- ufacturing to keep up. Forest River was not known for that before. We have turned that around and are willing to accom- modate them as long as it does not violate code or create a liability issue." This willingness to customize could be one of the keys to its successful Canadian penetration. In the U.S., park models must remain under 400 square feet to qualify as an RV under federal and state laws. However, in Canada, park models can go up to 538 square feet, so the units are wider and longer than their U.S. counterparts. This greater flexibility allows features such as king beds, a second bedroom and larger living rooms. Looking ahead, Duncan and his staff were conjuring up the next eye-popping surprise for the Elkhart Open House Week in September. In 2016, Forest River wowed its dealers with a limited edition "barn unit" at the Elkhart show. That limited edition was so popular that it was being built well into 2018. It's time to retire that very successful design and show a new special unit during Open House Week, according to Duncan. "We will try to do something that catches your eye. Our goal at Expo is to 'wow' again by showing things you haven't seen in a park model," he says. "We're formulating that plan right now."

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