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RV sales are up amid pandemic travel limitations

Andy Uhler Nov 25, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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The RV industry is having a hard time keeping up with demand, partly because RV makers were forced to shut down for a while in the early days of the pandemic. Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
COVID-19

RV sales are up amid pandemic travel limitations

Andy Uhler Nov 25, 2020
The RV industry is having a hard time keeping up with demand, partly because RV makers were forced to shut down for a while in the early days of the pandemic. Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Thirty-two-year-old Kira Pickens is the proud owner of a brand new, $12,000 camper. She and her husband Ryan tow it behind their Toyota Tacoma when they want to get out of Austin, Texas.

“It’s just a little pop-up. So, instead of like the canvas pop-ups that get wider, it just kind of pops up to like an A-frame,” Pickens said.

She said they’d been talking about getting an RV for a while and decided to make it a Christmas present to each other last year.

“We got it in January,” she said. “And then, it’s like, come March and April, it became a boom where everybody was getting one. So I’m kind of actually really glad we got it before that.”

RV prices have been rising during the pandemic.

Monika Geraci with the RV Industry Association said sellers first noticed something going on in the spring, which is already normally a good time for RV sales.

“But it became clear very quickly that this was not pent up demand,” Geraci said. “These were new people who had either maybe considered RV-ing, but this was what pushed them over the edge, or a lot of people who had never considered RV-ing now were looking for a way to get out and travel.”

It kind of makes sense. Over the summer, lots of folks didn’t go on vacation and stay in hotels. Instead, a lot of people bought RVs.

Geraci said suppliers are seeing a big increase in first-time buyers who are overwhelmingly buying cheaper, towable RVs. Shipments of those units are up more than 35% from a year ago.

In fact, the industry is having a hard time keeping up with demand.

Colin Duffy sells RVs at Camper Clinic just south of Austin, and said he can’t order enough units from manufacturers. That’s partly because RV makers were forced to shut down for a while in the early days of the pandemic.

“So what happened was the factories shut down for 45 days for all of these different brands,” Duffy said. “And the dealerships sold off of what their existing lots had.”

And while new buyers are snapping up the RVs they can find at dealerships, not all of these RV converts are in it for the long haul. Industry observers are expecting a strong used RV market to develop on the other side of the pandemic. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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