Pharr RVs Finds Success Along Route 66
Friday, April 1, 2011
Pharr RVs is located in Lubbock, Texas, an oasis in the western part of the Lone Star state. Lubbock is 350 miles from Dallas/Fort Worth, 164 miles from Abilene, 116 miles from Midland-Odessa and 117 miles from Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle. Still, as isolated as its physical location may be, Pharr RVs is tied into the Route 66 RV Network, which gives it a leg up in terms of enhancing its competitiveness.
“We have been a member of the Network for five years now,” says Michael Hymer, a co-owner of the dealership, along with Jerry and Jacky Pharr (sons of the founders/original owners). “It helped us plug into programs that the Network has put together.”
Pharr RVs proudly touts its association with the Route 66 RV Network, including the dealer group logo in Pharr’s signage. Belonging to Route 66 is a selling point for the dealership.
The program includes a proprietary parts network that ensures, regardless of the Route 66 service location the member visits, that the dealer will be able to search the country for the specific replacement part that that member needs to repair the customer’s RV.
Hymer sees that as among the biggest advantages of the program. “We are able to tell people who buy from us that we can help them get service in another location. If they are having issues on the road, we can help get them up and running.”
As an example, Hymer notes the dealership had a situation a while back in which a customer going to Yellowstone in a new camper suddenly required a new heater.
“We were able to get him to see a Route 66 dealer in the Denver area to get his heater fixed, and get him back on the road,” he says.
Route 66 membership also offers benefits for its dealer members. Hymer says one of the biggest dealer benefits he sees to the program is the ability for members to build relationships and share advice.
“If I have an issue I can call and say, ‘How are you dealing with this issue?’ It is a great sounding board and reference,” he says.
Pharr RVs touts Route 66 in signage in the parts display area, which takes up about 1,800 square feet. The dealer group is also flagged on the main building sign, and is even incorporated into the dealership’s logo.
Isolation Not All Bad
While some might see Pharr RVs’ relatively isolated location in West Texas to be a negative, Hymer takes the opposite point of view.
Pharr RVs has been in business since 1969. Pictured above (left-to-right) are co-owners Jacky Pharr, Jerry Pharr and Mike Heymer.
Pharr RVs in recent years has been primarily focused on the towables market, primarily Jayco products. However, in 2010 the dealership reentered the motorized market, selling everything from entry-level Class C units to Class A diesel motorhomes retailing for upwards of $500,000.
“If I were in Abilene, for example, which is an hour-and-a-half from Dallas, those customers would more likely drive to Dallas versus where we are. Around here, we find that customers are more loyal to their market,” he adds.
Still, while other major metropolitan centers in Texas are hours away from Lubbock, that doesn’t mean Pharr’s can take customers for granted, says Hymer, who notes the business has two competing dealerships in its own backyard. One way Pharr RVs aims to keep customers loyal is by putting a strong focus on parts and service.
The dealership has eight service bays and eight technicians, plus a foreman, all of whom are RVDA-RVIA certified. They are paid a flat rate with a built-in commission structure.
Bodywork is a very profitable service for the dealership, Hymer says. The technicians do not, however, work on engines or chassis.
The dealership has also built a profitable niche for itself doing hitch work.
As for parts and accessories, the dealership focuses on the best-turning items. Satellite dishes, particularly Winegard products, are popular aftermarket accessories for the business.
Regarding Pharr RVs’ location in West Texas, Hymer sees other benefits as well. Pharr RVs’ market spreads out about 150 miles from Lubbock, which is known for being part of oil country, but also has a mixed economy that includes natural gas and agriculture – cotton production being a major staple of the area, Hymer notes. All this has helped anchor this market’s economy during the difficult times.
Additionally, the “mid-section of the country has weathered the recession better than the West and East coasts,” Hymer adds. “We don’t boom as much – so we don’t bust.”
Changing Course, Changing Product Offerings
Pharr RVs, which opened for business in 1969, was primarily a highline fifth wheel dealer throughout the 1990s. But in late 2003, it obtained a Jayco franchise, which gives it a broader assortment of products, especially in the more-affordable towables segment, including entry-level travel trailers as well as more-affordable fifth wheels.
Pharr RVs has a 1,800-square-foot parts showroom stocked with popular, fast-turning items. Satellite dishes and towing products are big sellers for the dealership.
Service technician Travis Pharr makes a face plate for a stereo installation on a trade-in toy hauler in the service department. Pharr RVs can do nearly any type of repairs in its eight service bays.
“Jayco created an offering of floorplans, sizes and weight classes that most people can tow with a half-ton truck or half-ton Suburban,” Hymer says. “We were able to offer a really nice bunkhouse travel trailer for $14,995 – that’s all a lot of people can afford most of the time.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Pharr RVs got back into motorhomes about a year a go, after getting out of the category during the Great Recession. With the economy now on sounder footing, motorhomes have become a strong growth driver for the dealership.
Pharr RVs now offers a wide range of motorized Jayco models, from entry-level Class C units to luxury Entegra Class A diesels retailing for up to $500,000.
“Last year, we felt was the year (to get back into motorhomes), and having Entegra, which really works with us, has given us a lot of benefits,” Hymer says. “Their support has helped us sell a lot of units. And Jayco and Entegra continue to improve their products based on customer and dealer recommendations.
“Right now, motorhomes are selling fairly well compared to the past few years,” he says, adding, “The category just started to pick up in the last 12 months.”
Spread across 6 acres, Pharr RVs merchandises about 120 units.
“We’re not appealing to any one sector,” Hymer says of the dealership’s product offerings. “We are carrying a broad base to appeal to a variety of customers. The market wants a dealer who can trade them from a trailer to a motorhome and vice versa; we can do it. We try to have enough product so that they don’t need to go anywhere else to shop.”