Hot Products for 2011
With the still uncertain economy and gas prices spiraling because of Middle East tension, it’s no easy feat to forecast the future of the RV market. Still, distributors tell RV PRO they are expecting an up year in 2011. Distributors note that financing has loosened, Americans are itching to hit the road, and hot new products are expected to stimulate buying.
Mike Keller, president Keller Marine & RV
Port Treverton, Pa.
“There are a lot of positive trends at a lot of levels.
“Products like Chempace’s Odor Absorb, that’s still very popular. There’s the industry standard fifth wheel stuff from Reese and PullRite’s SuperGlide. That’s a great product and it’s real hot. It’s been very good for us with a lot of growth and I think it’s going to continue. The price has dropped and it’s been very well-received by the dealers and consumers.
“We’re seeing a lot more flat-screen TVs being put on the market. MOR/ryde has a great product line of shelves and TV mounts. You can get about any kind of mount the consumer wants. They make about 25 different mounts now. That’s been an interesting product line for us that we’ve seen is very popular.
“We had a good year last year and we are buying well ahead. We’re buying basically into June right now. We foresee a shortage in a lot of products. The market is coming up faster than anybody can ramp up for. The OEM business has come back. …
“We were up about 12 percent last year and we expect to be up about the same this year.
“I really think financing is better than it’s been the last three years, which is helping. Demand seems to be up. I think people are sick of the recession. We’re doing really well. If you didn’t tell me it was recession year and that it was 10 below zero a couple of days, I wouldn’t be able to tell it by looking at the numbers.
“Consumers are positive and there is good energy there. There seems to be a trend toward financing getting easier. More people seem to be in a favorable mood. Banks are getting more open to lending and that’s key. Consumers have paid down a lot of debt. They have gotten more fiscally oriented and they seem to be back.”
Steve Christenson, vice president, Bell Industries
“In our shows in 2011 comparative to 2010 and 2009, we’re doing well. There’s been a nice increase as far as what people are looking at and what they actually purchased compared to the last two years. When the year started, I thought the increase might be 8 or 9 percent. But after we had a few small shows and bigger shows, I am thinking maybe 12 to 13 percent.
“It’s an upturn in demand, and there’s been some product issues the last couple of years. Not everything was accessible from the manufacturers because the OEs started to see an uptick toward the middle of last year. It created a lack of product in the marketplace.
“We’re getting into some of the solar, Samlex, for instance. We’re getting a pretty good response on that at our shows. Satellite (antennas) pretty much across the board continues to be a hot item and there are a lot of new satellite items, the different kind of finders they’ve got out. Winegard has a nice one, King Controls has one out. There’s a couple where you can pull into a park now, pull the antenna up, and they tell you exactly how much to turn to get more signal.
“I think there has to be an uptick in new units this year, but the economy is not where everybody wants. People are still going to say ‘I think I’m going to hold onto my RV one more year, see how it goes, but let’s upgrade to a satellite system.’
“Most of the ‘green product’ is in the LED replacement bulbs. That’s probably the biggest mover right now. The pricing is finally starting to come down and it makes so much sense. You have no heat. They last forever. They’re brighter.
“If things keep going in a positive direction, I think the supply on aftermarket is going to be really tough. As a distributor, I’ve seen this many times: if the OEs get an uptick and they start pushing units and start building to their max output, the distributor is going to be the guy who’s not getting that product. As a distributor trying to have everything we can in stock at all three of our warehouses, I am making sure that we’ve got the product when and where it’s needed. But there’s a lot of uncertainty.
“Dealers let us know what we might need. This year we’re being told that a lot of 10-year-old RVs will have deterioration with the rubber on the rubber roofs and that could be a key item for the aftermarket in repair through this year.
“You know people will use their RVs, they just may not go as far. In 2008, people did the same thing, and then last year people started traveling farther, doing more sightseeing. It would be tough if that went backward a bit.
“The thing I think that still hurts this industry is a lot of people are still not working. I think everybody realizes that things are better, but if the government or whoever can fix a few of the other problems, especially the employment, the RV industry can be so much better. It can be fantastic.”
Martin Street, president/CEO, Stag-Parkway Inc.
“I think it’s going to be a nice, steady business this year, but from our point of view, we are looking for something better than that. A lot depends on what happens in the Middle East with the oil. You know, we’re already seeing gas prices leap. I think if you see it go over $4 a gallon, which we saw in 2008, it tended to slow the whole industry down.
“Having said that, there are a lot of people who might have taken holidays abroad who will consider the safer and more affordable option of staying home. We bought and are processing our business with expectation of an increase this year and people are going to be using their RVs this year because they want to take a vacation.
“I think just the whole process of buying a large motorhome and the difficulty of the financial issues and continuing problems in the housing market and second mortgage issues mean that people will continue to go for the cheaper towables. It’s a great starting point to get into the RV industry and it’s a great option in terms of affordability.
“Last year, we had strong growth and took market share and were up just shy of double digits in terms of sales. We anticipate we will be up this year. We’re planning for more than that (double-digit growth.) From my point of view, if you plan your business and say we’re going to do flat sales, you probably will do flat sales, because that’s the way you will buy. I’m planning to be up, so I am buying that way and marketing that way.
“The last couple of years people have held onto their RVs longer, but wanted to upgrade, so we see a pick-up in sales of accessories.
“We’re seeing a lot of the vendors bringing out new products this year, whereas in the last couple of years they have been fairly quiet in that area. There’s innovation in tech products – particularly in satellites – as people inevitably want the latest, greatest electronic. Electronics seem to change every three months, it seems to me.
“We’ve just taken on a new warehouse in Denver; we are up and running and we’re delighted to be in the Denver market. Our show in Nashville had 20 percent more attendance and the consumers and the dealership markets were very positive in terms of what they expect for this year. We’re beating our budget so far and our year runs Dec. 1 to Nov. 30, so we are almost a quarter into the year.”
Products Stag-Parkway pegs as hot this year include Patio Mat’s Director Chairs, ADCO’s Designer Series Tire Covers; Peel and Stick Photo Frames by RV Frames; Authentic Dealer Inc.’s Vacation Kits; ASA Electronics’ Advent Air Conditioners; Girard Products’ Tankless Water Heater Systems; DuraSafe’s BOLT code-able locks; Blue Ox’s Alpha Tow Bar; and B&W Trailer Hitches’ Patriot 16K Fifth Wheel Hitch.
Cathy Sutton, senior vendor group manager NTP Distribution
“We had a spectacular show. The buzz was really positive, really upbeat. In fact, from what I have heard, all of the other distributors had a great show as well. It is a nice trend to be seeing and one that we hope we will see growing into 2012.
“We had been servicing the Southeast well before the opening of our Georgia (SE) facility, but with the opening of this fifth DC in March 2010 we have seen a greater-than-expected market share increase.
“We’re seeing a lot of movement with towing products – both steel and plastic. In fact, there was more steel movement than we’ve seen in, I’d say, the past five years.
“In terms of particular products, for satellite systems, both Winegard and King Dome are popular. For NTP, towing products are very popular, especially in Demco’s Kar Kaddy.
“And what’s amazing is that (sales volumes) have increased across the board – even to items like chairs and the accessory-type items. What’s more, there is a shift in the buying trends with our dealers, as now we are seeing bigger-ticket items selling on a more regular turn. Two years ago it was mainly the replacement parts or small orders; now the dealers are gaining more confidence as are their end consumers.
“Programs were created by both suppliers and NTP to encourage (healthy) stocking levels, rather than ones and twos, and we were quite surprised by the packages that were being purchased. …
“With dealers, we’re certainly seeing an influx of stocking the stores. It’s back to that mentality again of having more products on dealers’ shelves, ready for the summer selling season, which is great. Although one of the core values at NTP is our inventory management philosophy, where we strive to be the dealers ‘back room,’ allowing them to maintain more cash in their pockets. We are able to do this with our strategically placed distribution centers and our late day order and shipping policies.”
Dave Berger, executive vice president Coast Distribution
Morgan Hill, Calif.
“I believe people are more positive about the economy and will buy more RVs this year.
“The suppliers have come up with some new products, but I haven’t seen any that will set the world on fire. That doesn’t mean they won’t sell. We feel like the rest of the industry: Business is going to improve and 2011 is going to be better than 2010. So far, what we see is an improvement. Towing products will pick-up if we see a pickup in units sold.
“Our inventory is good. We are expecting a stronger season so we built our inventory in expectation of the season being good.
“I think the dealer is stocking a little more inventory. I don’t think they will go crazy overboard, but they will stock more this year. But dealers are also being conservative, which is smart. They need to run their business smartly and service their customers.
“We sell a lot of satellite dishes to customers. … A couple of popular ones that we use are King Control’s King-Dome and Winegard.”