RV World of Georgia first opened for business in April 2009 – hardly an auspicious time for an RV dealership to test the market. And yet, ironically, the business succeeded when a good number of other dealerships were closing their doors, in part by becoming a major purveyor of motorhomes, which can be a tough sell even in the best of times.
Owner David Daniel (left) and General Manager Eddie Correa are pictured next to several large Class A motorhomes on the dealership’s 5-acre lot. Despite a still challenging economy, RV World of Georgia saw its business prosper in 2010 thanks in large part to its decision to enter the motorized market.
General Manager Eddie Correa says RV World of Georgia was profitable in its first year, grossing about $6 million. In 2010, when the dealership began selling motorhomes in earnest, it had more than tripled its revenues – to roughly $20 million.
“It is rare to open any business and be successful in the first year – especially in that economy,” say Correa, who has about 20 years of RV selling experience. “People thought either we were nuts or geniuses (to open for business during the Great Recession); I think we were a little of both. But last year was our first full year in operation, and we were highly profitable and successful.”
One early factor in the dealership’s success was its strategic location. RV World of Georgia is located on a 5-acre lot located off Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County, minutes from metro Atlanta and only one exit north of the Mall of Georgia. It is the only dealership on I-85, located for easy access from South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama.
Timing is Everything
And while the timing of the dealership’s opening would seem at first glance to have been far from ideal, Correa says that in reality it offered RV World of Georgia many opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to a new dealership.
RV World of Georgia is located in Buford, Ga., just north of Atlanta and one highway exit north of the Mall of Georgia. The dealership’s strategic location on Interstate 85 helps it attract customers from Alabama, Tennessee and North and South Carolina.
“We started out by using what we could get at the time,” he says of acquiring brands. “But as dealers went out of business, territories opened up and more products suddenly were available that we couldn’t previously get. We took on product that people would die for.”
It was indeed ironic. “If the economy wasn’t as bad as it was, it would’ve been slim pickings,” Correa explains. “There were still good products available during that period, but it is the ‘marquis’ product that escalates your business into a successful one, more so than you could do with lesser-known product. It was a good time to put a product assortment together.”
When it launched in 2009, RV World’s initial plan was to focus on the towables market. But then a funny thing happened: The number of motorhomes pulling into the dealership’s service bays was going through the roof, leading the business to believe it could be successful in the market segment.
“We jumped the gun,” Correa says, explaining the dealership didn’t originally plan to sell motorhomes until its second or even third year in business. “During that first year, we began acquiring lines.”
The move paid off: RV World quickly carved a nice niche for itself in the desirable mid-range motorhome segment. It is particularly successful with new diesel pushers in the $100,000-200,000 range. Class A’s priced from $70,000-100,000 also are strong performers for the dealership.
Correa credits several things for this successful expansion. First and foremost, RV World was able to get the marquis motorhome brands it needed, such as Tiffin and Fleetwood.
Centered on Service
Yet another key to the growth of the dealership is service.
The dealership prides itself in having a “one-stop” shop for customers’ service needs, including the ability to do paint and body work, complete chassis service and more. RV World of Georgia has eight indoor service bays and eight outdoor bays.
“We have the facility and the people to handle everything,” Correa says. “The initial sale is the tip of the iceberg for us. It is what we do after the sale that is what counts so much in this business.”
RV World of Georgia has eight indoor and eight outdoor service bays and is planning to build more with 2 acres it recently purchased. The dealership prides itself on offering a “one-stop” service destination for all RV needs, including collision (paint and body), complete chassis service, generator service, A/C service and more. The dealership also offers a temporary rental service in some instances if a customer’s RV requires extended repairs.
“We want to have the whole ball here,” Correa says. “The vehicles are ever-changing. If you don’t have the facility to back it up, this can become a very short-lived career.”
To Correa, it’s inconceivable to sell RVs without being able to service them fully.
“You diagnose, then you bring the parts in. You have to have people who can handle that segment of the business. You can’t drop it,” he says. “Parts and service are the key to maintaining your customers’ happiness with their vehicles.”
To make sure that it can fully meet customers’ service needs, RV World of Georgia employs eight technicians who are paid a flat rate. All of the technicians are ASE and RV certified and some are master certified. Keeping its technicians up-to-date on training is key for the dealership, Correa says.
More than half of the dealership’s 40,000-square-foot building on its lot is taken up by service bays, but there is also about 15,000 square feet dedicated to merchandising a large selection of aftermarket accessories, focusing on must-haves and popular products.
RV World of Georgia has about 15,000 square feet of space dedicated to retailing aftermarket parts and accessories – everything from cleaners and holding tank chemicals to hitches and satellite dishes.
“We offer satellites, hitches, high-definition televisions, multimedia products – complete with installation service,” Correa says. “We can accommodate the customer who wants to upgrade to the newest things available on the market.”
Know Your Demographic
As for RV World’s target demographic, Correa says it covers “the whole spectrum,” from weekend travelers with families to older full-timers. Still, the dealership’s average purchaser is about 35 and older, usually with young families, and most of them already own an SUV or a truck.
“They can purchase a towable and travel 20 times a year instead of taking one vacation a year,” Correa says. “We help bring about a return to core family values.”
There is a common supposition in the RV industry that buyers follow a stepladder approach in their buying habits: starting off with small towables and then gradually trading up, culminating in the purchase of a highline Class A motorhome. But Correa says that, in his experience, people usually stay with the type of RV they began with – although they tend to graduate from pre-owned to new units.
“A lot of people who start with towables will purchase a pre-owned one first, then move on to a new one, then maybe move to a fifth wheel,” Correa says. “It’s the same thing with motorhomes. They may start with a pre-owned; then purchase a new one, maybe start with a Class C; then move to a Class A; then a big midline diesel-pusher. Then they’d trade back down as they get older and want smaller vehicles that are easier to handle and because maybe they use it less. It’s all a matter of where you are in life.”
And whichever stage of life a customer is in, RV World of Georgia is ready and waiting for them.