Feb 052009

Mark Polk has an interesting post on the RV.Net blog titled My Top 5 Predictions for the Future of the RV Industry. One of his predictions is that the weak will not survive. I agree, and I think that is a good thing. But I’ll add something to Mark’s prediction – the undeserving also will not survive.

For years, many big RV manufacturers had the same mindset as AT&T did back when they were a monopoly – “We don’t care because we don’t have to!”  You see where that got them. Now some of the RV companies who had that same mindset are history, or are on the ropes, just waiting for the knockout punch.

When people ask my opinion on which RVs to buy, I have always recommended four brands, based upon the quality of their rigs and their history of customer service. Those companies are Tiffin, Heartland, Newmar, and Winnebago. When asked which companies I would not buy from, Fleetwood has always topped my list. Having been Fleetwood owners, we know just how poor their quality and customer service is. Monaco was another company I could not recommend, based upon the problems owners of their coaches have shared with me over the years.

As I look at the companies who are hanging in there in these tough times, and which ones seem to be going by the wayside, I see that the same ones I have always been comfortable with are still cranking out units, and the ones who I have felt were problematic, are now going or gone. While I sympathize with the RV industry workers who have lost their jobs, I can’t feel bad when I see a company that has routinely neglected its customers close its doors. I only hope that when things pick back up (and they will), these displaced workers can find positions with the strong companies that survive.

Speaking of big, impersonal companies, having run small town newspapers for much of my adult life, I have seen what happens to small business owners when WalMart comes to town. I have also printed the letters to the editor from local people complaining about losing their jobs at those small businesses when the doors closed. But I also saw those same people shopping at the big discount store to save a buck. They never seemed to understand that if they did not support the small shop owners, those shops would close and their jobs would disappear. So you save a dollar today and lose a job tomorrow. That makes good sense, doesn’t it?

While out soliciting door prizes for our Gypsy Gathering rally, we were dismayed to see how many small stores that donated door prizes last year have gone out of business. At the same time, there are more and more big chain stores in Casa Grande. When we call on those stores, the managers put us off by telling us that all donations must go through the corporate offices, a long and involved process that seldom gets any results. So, just like the residents of this and other small towns, we have seen the local small time operators close up, and the big impersonal stores display their don’t care attitude when it comes to giving something back to the community.

Almost every small restaurant we have called on has donated door prizes, some have given several. But, with one exception, the chain restaurants who could easily afford to donate a lunch or dinner have said no. So when we go out to dinner, we make it a point to dine at the small places whose owners give even when they really can’t afford to, because they want to support our rally and the money it brings to town. I hope when folks get to the rally, they will pass by those big places and patronize the local businesses too.

After reading yesterday’s blog, several readers wanted to know just whose name Bad Nick wanted to tell that young fast food worker to call out. I think myself and Bad Nick will take that one to the grave with us. Did I ever tell you what a great shot my wife is with a pistol?

Thought For The Day – It doesn’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally 

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  9 Responses to “The RV Industry And Big Box Stores”

  1. Your picks are interesting given what we have purchased.

    Our fifth wheel was a Heartland Bighorn — just too big for our needs and Karen couldn’t get over the big front of us looming over us as we drove down the road.

    Our replacement is a Navion iQ by Itasca (Winnebago’s other brand) — a much smaller rig that suits how we RV.

  2. You can add Born Free to the Good Guys list. They are one of the few, if not the only RV company, that made a profit last year, because they have based their reputation on customer service and quality. They are a small, family owned operation in Iowa that produces about 200 Born Free rigs a year , each by a 4 man team, not on an assembly line. When I was researching Class Cs, I found that Born Free and Lazy Daze are the 2 top-rated . I’m glad to see that more motorhomes are being produced on a Sprinter chassis (though BF doesn’t), like the Navion , View, some Roadtreks,etc. because they get better gas mileage, but the CCC is a lot less than on the Ford V-10.

    Even though some of the expired RV companies may have deserved their fate (like National, I hear) , it’s still a very sad trend to see so much turmoil in the industry and in our economy in general.

  3. A non-profit organization I managed funded scholarships for employees of our company. We had a group that did massive soliciting for donations. Door prizes lure attendees to functions and in the end, more money to be given in scholarships. Major chains receive hundreds of requests for donations… hundreds. They cannot fill all of these requests. Many times donations are budgeted by these major corporations and non-profit organizations usually are the winners. Companies — small or large — are hoping for a return on their donations. I agree with the need to support the business that do donate but also keep in mind that it is difficult to give donations to all those that request. They probably have made their allotment of donations to local charities.

  4. I recently bought a used NuWa Hitchhiker 5th wheel. Everything I’ve heard about the company has been positive, and I love the details that are standard in this 5ver. I looked at many RV’s before buying this one, and I realize what I good one I have. But NuWa recently announced that they could no longer stay in business, but also that they had set aside funds to honor their commitments and warranties. I truly believe this is a good company trying to build a good product, yet there will be companies much less deserving that will be able to ride out these difficult times. So I don’t think it’s a given that the good will survive and the bad will fall.

  5. You are “spot on” with your observations of small businesses and small towns. We grew up in a small town and returned there after retirement. I was even on the first board when we decided as a community to put some life back into our small community. One of the first problems we noticed were all the people shopping out of town. And when they go to the next larger town to shop at WalMart, they also eat dinner and buy gas there. All funds that need to be spent in our own community to keep it thriving. WalMart is our LAST choice wherever we are, because we have seen the disastrous results when they move into a small town. Pretty soon all that is left there is the WalMart.

  6. I can only comment on a few companies. We toured the Tiffin factory; I wish we could buy from those folks. It looked like a real quality operation. We also toured the Arctic Fox factory. Our next rv will probably be one of their trailers. Another quality operation.

    You are right on the money too regarding spending your money within the community. We have followed that philosophy for many years and have never been sorry. True, you can sometimes save a couple of dollars at Walmart (to name a name) but they are certainly a ‘buyer beware’ kind of operation. I’d much rather buy from someone who has a stake in the purchaser’s happiness. As far as restaurants are concerned, we always go for the local guy and are seldom disappointed. The big chains are ‘dumbed down’ to appeal to the crowd; the local people only stay in business if they keep local people happy. It’s gotta be better, right!

  7. […] Se­e­ orig­in­a­l he­re­: N­ick’s B­log­ » B­log­ Ar­chiv­e » T­he R­V­ … […]

  8. Debby and I try not to shop at Wall Mart as they are also unfriendly to Labor and Union’s as well as local merchants. Unfortunately we do shop in Target, Costco and both Lowes and Home Depot as well as Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Boarders. Costco is good to their employees but still a big Box Store. Lately after reading an excellent book on the subject I have tried to shop at Ace Hardware which is not a big box store. The book is “The Big Box Swindle” and it is a real eye opener even though I thought I knew all the reasons not to shop in WallMart. You can check it out at.http://www.bigboxswindle.com/


  9. […] may recall a blog I wrote on February 5 on my predictions for the RV industry, in which I said that the companies that ignore their […]

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