The Consensus from Hershey Show’s Day #1: Thumbs Up

Consumers line up to enter America’s Larges RV Show in Hershey, Pa., on Wednesday, their first opportunity to check out all the 2022 edition of all the “Hershey Show” has to offer. (Photos: Kirk Zutell/RVBusiness)

Nearly 1,500 units are on display at the show, which runs through Sunday.

HERSHEY, Pa. — As retail consumers and dealers converged on the first retail day at the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association’s (PRVCA) Hershey Show on Wednesday (Sept. 14), Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based RV Retailer President and CEO Jon Ferrando saw a lot to like – both at the show and for the industry in general despite some of the headwinds the industry has experienced.

“The industry is great and it’s exciting to be here at Hershey,” said Ferrando, who’s helping represent Entegra and Newmar brands at the show, which runs through Sunday. “It looks like we’ll have strong crowds all week and we have a tremendous selection of RVs on the ground at near record levels.”

“And all in all,” he told RVBusiness, “Hershey was tremendous yesterday with really good traffic, even though it was off somewhat (traffic-wise) from last year. But we saw a lot of high quality buyers and our sales were very strong and on a par with last year. It’s also a real indicator of where the industry is. So, I would say yesterday was a good day from that perspective.”

Jon Ferrando

Ferrando was not alone in his upbeat assessment thus far of the 2023 Hershey Show, considering the comments of other participating industry people like Brad Whitehead, general manager of Jayco Inc.’s towable division. “Well, we all know that last year was a massive opening day, shattering attendance records, and it was a really solid day. Sales numbers were solid and were right on top of top of last year’s numbers.

“As far as traffic,” he added, “it started out a little slow and cleared out a little bit early. So, from like 10:30 to 4 o’clock, it was a live show with people in the display and people were buying. That’s very encouraging. Couldn’t ask for a better start. Looking forward to the rest of the week.”

While acknowledging that sales have slowed nationally after two years of impressive pandemic sales, Ferrando, who’s 4-year-old dealership now has 106 stores in 33 states, bases much of his optimism on the changing demographics of the average customer. During COVID, he said, RVing attracted a new brand of customer who was looking more at the lifestyle and being able to live and work remotely to avoid crowds and potential infection.

“Despite all the negative economic factors, we’re still seeing a strong demand for RVs,” he said. “Our used business is very strong. Consumers looking at some of the new RV prices have shifted to used, which is an interesting recent trend we have seen. Our service business is at record levels, so there’s no question customers are out there using and servicing RVs.”

Mark Meyers

Ferrando said this positive outlook means RV Retailer is still on a fast-track for growth and is looking to add existing dealerships as well as potential greenfield stores after expanding thus far in 2022 in markets such as Charleston, S.C., and Houston, Texas. “The customer traffic is good here in Hershey and our team is energized and motivated and ready to go,” he said. “I think we’ll have a very good week here.”

Other dealers at the show also mentioned consumers coming to the show and legitimately looking to buy. But they also seemed to indicate it was taking a little more selling to consummate deals than the past couple of years.

Mark Meyers, president of Caledonia, N.Y.-based Meyer’s RV Superstores with 10 locations, said his booth in the Thor Motor Coach display was seeing good foot traffic at the show’s outset with a Texas customer among the first to come in. “He came here to buy,” Meyers said.

Meyers, who had seven booths throughout the show grounds representing various products the dealership carries, said one issue that is affecting dealers currently is the fact that inventory across the country has increased so much that it is actually making it harder to make a sale.

Chad Shepherd

“Before, it was if you had it on your lot, they were ready to buy it,” he said. “Now you have to sell them a little bit and your margins aren’t as good.”

Owner Chad Shepard of 9-location Pete’s RV, headquartered in South Burlington, Vt., said his dealerships are seeing strong recent growth in the sales of motorized vehicles. He said fifth-wheel sales are fairly strong, but travel trailers aren’t keeping up.

Meanwhile, he said initial show traffic was good, though not overwhelming. “The weird thing is a certain level of people, your sales people can’t keep up – they can only handle so many at a time,” said Shepard, who’s also seeing a dramatic improvement in the supply chain for parts and accessories this year, which has made it easier to keep up with service work while keeping store shelves stocked.