By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
ELKHART — There are expectations that this year’s Midwest RV Super Show just might have its best year since before the 2007-2009 recession.
As 1-ton pickups pulling luxury fifth wheels and travel trailers arrived at the RV/MH Hall of Fame off C.R. 17 Monday afternoon, organizers and dealer staffs were busy directing drivers to the right display areas.
“Last year was big,” said Chad Shepard of Pete’s RV Center in Schererville. He and the Pete’s staff were busy placing their Keystone Cougar fifth wheels and Forest River Vengeance toy hauler RVs in just the right spots in the display area east of the RV/MH Hall. “It was real strong. This year we are hoping for even better. The market is really, really strong.”
Yes it is.
Also on Monday, RV manufacturing giant Thor reported record sales for its fourth quarter, which ended July 31. The company sold $913.2 million worth of RVs in the quarter. That was an 18.6 percent gain over last year’s good fourth quarter. Thor’s results are indicative of what is occurring throughout the industry. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association reported in July RV sales nationwide rose 12.8 percent in the first six months of this year.
That robust gain is very good news for the show’s organizers, the Indiana Manufacturing Housing Association — Recreation Vehicle Industry Council.
“We will be having close to 300,” said Matt Rose of the number of RVs that will be on display. Rose oversees the several Indiana RV shows sponsored by the IMHA-RVIC. “Last year we had eight dealers. This year we have 13.”
That gain in dealerships is good news for consumers, who want to see and compare RVs at one location.
Now in its 58th edition, the show was once a massive event that filled the practice fields and parking lots around the Notre Dame football stadium and basketball arena. But other shows and the dwindling economy shrunk the show. It moved to the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds for a couple of years, then skipped 2009 due to the recession. The show was reborn in 2010 and was held on the Civic Plaza in downtown Elkhart and by 2011 it had outgrown that location. In 2012 the show was moved to the RV/MH Hall along the Indiana Toll Road.
Some dealers who have not attended for some time, are returning.
Don Smith of Camp-Land RV of Burns Harbor said his company is investing the time, money and manpower to set up 26 RVs at the show.
“We haven’t done this show in years, so we don’t know what to expect. We just know it’s a good opportunity to get back to the Elkhart area,” Smith said.
The return of distant dealers is a good sign for organizers.
“It’s very much a regional show,” Rose said.
And he advertised it as such. Marketing took place in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, he said.
“It’s going to be big. It’s going to be the biggest one in years,” Rose predicted.
The IMHA-RVIC held a spring show at the hall this year and that involved mostly local dealers. Now, like the Super Shows of the past, this one will have dealers from across Indiana.
Another new feature will be that Bob Biggs, owner of Suncoast Trailer Sales in Pierceton, will be displaying park model trailers. Those trailers are designed like tiny homes and are used for long-term placements in campgrounds.
“He’s a great guy,” Rose said. “And business has been really good for him.”
Another attraction for RV consumers, according to Rose, is that some of the RVs will be the newest models and have the newest floorplans.
“This is the first show in the country where people can see the 2014 models,” he said.
Attendees will also be treated to easy access to the displays of historic RVs in the hall. Last year there was a ticket option to see both the RV show and hall, but that has been consolidated in one ticket price of $10 for adults. Children 15 and under will be admitted free with accompanying adults.
The show begins Thursday and will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.