The 35-year-old Florida-based dealership seizes an opportunity to open a new store in Tucson, Ariz.
When an RV dealership grows from two travel trailers and $500 in cash to a sprawling 126-acre site with 200 service bays, there’s good reason to believe they are doing something right.
And when that dealership becomes the largest single-site dealership in the world, like Seffner, Fla.-based Lazydays RV, it’s obvious they are doing plenty of things right.
If the age-old business axiom – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – has ever applied, most would agree that it certainly applies in the case of Lazydays RV’s tremendous success during the past 35 years.
So what, if anything, could create a rational business argument for expansion into a new market, which the company undertook in 2011 with its acquisition of the largest dealership in RV-happy Tucson, Ariz.?
Spearheading the Lazydays operation in Tucson are Ken Stumpe (left), general sales manager, and General Manager Bob Grady.
The answer to that question is simple: An equally outsized opportunity.
According to Bob Grady, Lazydays’ general manager, the company’s acquisition of Beaudry RV – at one time the second-largest RV dealership in the country by sales volume behind Lazydays RV’s original Tampa Bay-area location – was a logical expansion.
“As a major tourist and RV destination, Tucson fits perfectly with Lazydays’ strategy of focusing its energy and investment in one and now two locations to provide the best possible customer experience,” he says. “We aren’t interested in trying to sustain brick and mortar in every market – we’d rather do everything we can to make a visit to Lazydays an extraordinary occasion and to provide great customer service and support wherever and whenever they are.”
To that end, the company made the acquisition and Lazydays Service opened in June 2011, followed soon after by the opening of Lazydays Sales and Lazydays RV Campground in September.
In keeping with the company’s longstanding reputation for offering amenities beyond merely sales and service, Lazydays Tucson features all that an RV owner would expect from one of the world’s premier dealerships. And that’s on top of the more natural amenities of the area, says Grady.
Florida-based Lazydays seized on an opportunity to expand west with its decision in 2011 to acquire the property that was once Beaudry RV in Tucson, Ariz. Lazydays has made a major investment in the property with the goal of becoming a major player in the western United States.
“Apart from being centrally located in the spectacular city of Tucson – if you haven’t seen our mountains, you don’t know Tucson – the Lazydays campus has a gorgeous 400-site campground (mostly pull-through), a restaurant with an upscale menu at reasonable prices, an event center that will seat 1,100 people, a southwestern village courtyard as a sales lobby, a customer learning center, and the cleanest service bays around,” he beams.
With all that to offer, it’s little surprise that the current campus now totals 86 acres plus a collision center on 5 acres just down the road.
Customer Service, Southern Hospitality
In order to fully understand what is so special about Lazydays Tucson — in addition to its enviable scale — it’s vital to understand how the company’s Tampa location became what it did, says Grady.
Yes, that dealership is huge in comparison to all but the largest other dealers in the world – it sits on 126 acres just east of Tampa in the town of Seffner, Fla., and features an 83,500-square-foot main building. But what contributed to its growth over the years was more tied to how you make a dealership of that size seem personal to the customers who visit.
“Lazydays has a long history of ‘making customers for life’ by providing the best customer service and experience,” says Grady. “Rather than specialize, Lazydays Tampa offers virtually everything an RVer needs, from camping, food, service and sales, parts and accessories. Our specialty comes in doing it better than anyone else. (We do that by) building and growing a culture that fosters excellent customer service and a mentality we are in the business of making customers’ dreams come true.”
A big part of creating that culture comes from the company’s weekly customer service training program, which is a requirement for all staff, from the CEO down. In addition, all employees attend an eight-month program called “Integrity Service” that Grady says takes the employees’ “understanding of how to create value for our customers and loyalty to a totally different level.”
Members of the Lazydays service department are shown in front of the department. Pictured are (left-to-right): Kathy Bergeron, cashier; Bob Bergeron, check-in manager/ driving instructor; Liz Westhafer, service advisor; Julie Cotton, service support; Katrina Blevins, service support; Steve Roddy, service manager; and Jennifer Sykora, service advisor.
Grady believes that this dedication to customer service helps greatly in attracting great staff.
“It’s not easy finding outstanding talent, especially when your standards are as high as Lazydays,” he says, noting that the company does advertise locally and in national trade publications. Still, most people come to the company through word-of-mouth. “Great people are drawn to us and seek us out,” he adds.
Beyond merely providing the dealership’s staff with the proper training, Lazydays works hard to provide a complete experience for its customers. The sales and service that takes place at the dealership is only a small fraction of the overall experience, which is one geared at creating a sense of community.
A big part of that community is the Lazydays RV Campground.
“The campground is an extension of the dealership – a very important department within the overall Lazydays organization,” says Grady. “There is tremendous synergy between the dealership and the campground.”
And the same goes for Lazydays numerous events throughout the year. Events include off-shoot events from local RV shows like the Tampa RV SuperShow (held down the road at the Florida State Fairgrounds) or manufacturer-specific rallies like the company hosts in conjunction with premier suppliers, the focus is always the same. Build community and offer value to Lazydays customers.
Says Grady: “Our manufacturer-specific rallies are notable for creating energy and excitement for our customers, manufacturers, and for Lazydays.”
Bringing Community Out West
A dedication to creating a vibrant community beyond a merely buy-and-sell relationship is one aspect of the Tampa location that Lazydays has every intention of bringing with it as it establishes a homestead in the West, says Grady.
Lazydays Tucson takes pride in being able to do nearly any type of repair and service work, including chassis work. The dealership features 70 service bays and a motorhome-sized down-draft paint booth. It also operates a collision repair facility offsite.
In December, the dealership hosted its first Wild West RV SuperShow, providing RVers with a chance to meet the company’s manufacturers, take part in an RV Driver Confidence course, and attend educational seminars – all while enjoying great food and entertainment.
In January, Lazydays Tucson hosted its first Gator Fest, during which the company brought “a little Florida to Tucson” and once again offered “customers opportunities to learn about the best that RVing has to offer,” says Grady. “All of these events give RVers and prospective RVers a chance to get to know Lazydays, what we stand for and why we’re the right partner for their RV journey.”
Before Lazydays Tucson was born, however, a good bit of the existing Beaudry RV needed reinvention, with the goal being a clear message to RVers in the area.
“Lazydays wanted to make it clear that we are unique, both in how we do business and in what we do for our customers,” says Grady, noting that the company transformed the main entrance and lobby of the existing sales building to give it, “a warm, welcoming feel, like you’re home.”
It built a new retail parts store to add to the convenience for guests looking for hard-to-find parts, a specialty of Lazydays Tampa. It also restored and updated much of the rest of the property.
“We’ve been busy,” says Grady.
With all that change, it’s important to note the many similarities a customer experiences between the Tampa and Tucson locations. Most notably, the company culture itself.
Says Grady: “We transferred the Lazydays Tampa culture and way of doing business, lock, stock, and barrel. We follow the exact same processes and use the same information systems. We do the same training in customer service, team-building, products, and processes.”
While Grady says the reinvention of the existing dealership wasn’t completely without issues, he says the process overall was a remarkably smooth one.
“Fortunately, our pleasures far outpaced the struggles: Seeing the property develop, building a truly world-class team and, most importantly, meeting so many RVers who are enjoying the lifestyle and who truly appreciate us being here and what we’re doing” are among the highlights of the process, according to Grady.
Sales and Service: A Tradition of Integrity
Much like the way Lazydays approaches customer service, it’s choices regarding the manufacturers that it carries focus largely around the customers. At the core of this philosophy is a requirement that manufacturers and their products uphold the integrity the company demands of every other element of their customer experience.
Lazydays believes in carrying a large selection of parts and accessories, including hard-to-find items, in order to best serve its customers.
“Our selection process starts with manufacturer integrity – we only do business with manufacturers who build excellent products and stand behind them,” says Grady. “From there, we look at the value for and appeal to our customers. (We ask ourselves), ‘Is the product something we would be proud to promote as a Lazydays product and is every consumer segment covered?’ Through that process, we’re very pleased with our new RV product lineup.”
Today, that lineup features some of the most well-known and trusted in the industry, including motorhomes from American Coach, Entegra, Forest River, Holiday Rambler, Thor and Winnebago, and towable products from Cedar Creek, Crossroads, Dutchmen, Keystone, Lance, Redwood, R-Pod, Rockwood and XLR.
With a wide range of products, conveying key information is a primary task for Lazydays’ sales and support staff. That is where the company’s commitment to a customer’s entire lifestyle as it relates to their RV comes in. Throughout the process, staff works to provide a wealth of information about the buying and servicing process, driving instruction, how best to live in an RV, even how to cook with a unit’s microwave/convection oven, says Grady. And that’s not to mention the 24/7 tech support.
“We treat customers like family, which they are,” says Grady.
Today, that family has access to 70 service bays staffed with about 20 technicians who do work ranging from chassis to glass, flooring to woodworking services. And the Tucson location also features the only RV-sized down-draft paint booth in the region.
“Our paint and body crew are true craftsmen,” Grady adds, noting that employees are provided preparatory training to become RVIA/RVDA certified. “We expect all Lazydays technicians to achieve certification within a short period of joining us.”
Thus far, seven technicians in the Tucson shop have become certified.
By learning the customer’s lifestyle and projected uses, Lazydays’ sales staff has had a front row seat to the changing world of RVs. That can be a challenging process, says Grady, especially with customers who seem to defy demographic categorization.
“Each one is unique and is given our full and undivided attention so we can understand their wants and needs,” he says. “We have a very patient sales process so we can spend the right amount of time getting to know each customer. Because of this, we do a great job of finding just the right coach for each customer, (which is) a key to our high rate of repeat and referral business.”
While these customers range through all ages, Grady acknowledges that he sees more young couples and young families today than in years past, as well as more customers in the Tucson area with active lifestyles that gravitate more toward toy haulers and fifth wheels.
Another evolution of the RV industry relates directly to the growing impact of technology.
Lazydays is counting on its parts and service departments to help propel its growth in the Arizona market. The company is looking to replicate the success of its Florida mega-dealership, which is the largest single-site RV dealership in the world.
“Growth in use of the Internet, of course, is the most profound change (in the industry), he says. “Lazydays web presence has been a strength for years and we continue to grow our capabilities in all areas of the Internet, especially social media.
“Consumers have never been more knowledgeable before they come to the dealership, which actually helps us,” he adds. “A big part of creating a great customer experience is ensuring our customers are as educated as possible about their RV and the RV lifestyle. As customers are coming to us better informed, we have more time to move beyond the basics and demonstrate the many ways in which Lazydays provides extra value to our customers.”
While the company still utilizes traditional media like industry publications and newspapers, as well as television, billboard and radio spots; it also employs branded websites like its own Lazydays and BetterRVing websites and its BetterRVing magazine.
What remains the same, however, is the core experience of the customers. That, Grady says, will always mean the same thing:
“What is no different today is the pure joy our customers find in their RV journey,” he adds. “That is universal and is what keeps us excited.”