Mar 242011

Now, lest you think I’ve been chewing on loco weed or smoking wacky tobaccy, given my often expressed low opinion of Camping World and today’s blog title, let me say that I never hesitate to point out the shortcomings of the RV industry. But I also think that when a person or a company does something good, it too, needs to be recognized.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the RV Hall of Fame Museum’s financial crisis, and that if the museum could not find some angels to help keep the doors open, the world would be losing a valuable resource. Well, an angel has come forward, in the form of Marcus Lemonis, Chairman of Camping World.

To help the museum meet its current financial obligations, while also guaranteeing the museum’s long-term success, Lemonis is pledging a combined total of up to $325,000. This would would make Camping World and the Good Sam Club the museum’s largest supporters.

This cash infusion would start with a $100,000 grant from the Good Sam Club for future naming rights for something at the museum to be determined at a future date. This is the same thing we see at sports venues, where a sponsor has a sky box, an exhibit hall, or even an entire facility named after themselves.

Lemonis has also promised to contribute one-half percent of the Good Sam Club’s annual membership revenue, as a contribution from Good Sam members. This contribution, based upon the Good Sam Club’s membership numbers, could fluctuate as those numbers go up or down. But Lemonis placed a minimum on the dollar amount of no less than $75,000 annually. The Good Sam Club currently has approximately 880,000 members.

In a news release I received from museum historian Al Hesselbart, Lemonis also proposes the addition of a Camping World accessory store as a tenant of the museum, with its annual rent equal to the facility’s projected 2011 operating budget deficit, not to exceed $150,000. The Camping World retail outlet would be housed inside the museum’s existing infrastructure, not in a separate building, and would involve only the company’s accessory items, and not include RV sales. 

Lemonis said that his proposals are not without a few caveats. He would like the annual pledge by the Go RVing Coalition to the Hall of Fame paid on time, as previously promised. Lemonis added, “Also, I would like to see $2 from every Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) seal to go towards the operating budget of the museum. I believe that RV dealers across the country see the value in the Hall of Fame, and it’s the dealers who actually pay for those seals.” The cost of the seals, $20 per RV regardless of type, help to finance the Go RVing Coalition’s media and promotional buys for the year.

The Camping World chairman also noted the lack of support from the rest of the RV industry, saying that he would like to see the museum be able to raise $250,000 on its own from RV manufacturers and suppliers. “I’ll do everything I proposed,” said Lemonis, “But others also have to bring something to the table to help ensure that the museum becomes and remains viable.”

Even though I am no fan of Camping World, and after the latest fiasco involving my motorhome’s tires, I will never allow their RV techs to touch my Winnebago again, I applaud Marcus Lemonis for stepping up to the plate and helping to bail the RV Museum out. The rest of the RV  industry damn sure isn’t doing anything about the problem.

Thought For The Day – It is the friends you can call at 4 a.m. that matter.


Nick Russell

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

  16 Responses to “Camping World Does Good”

  1. Sure, you can call me at 4 am. Doesn’t mean I’m going to answer.

    Besides it’s really the friends you can call at 4 am and tell them to bring a shovel, and they don’t ask questions.

  2. OK – I for one am waiting to hear the backstory on Greg’s comment!

    Thank you to Camping World and Mr. Lemonis for stepping up and helping the museum. For my money CW is still the best one stop shopping place in the RV business.

  3. That is indeed good news for the museum. It deserves the support. Good for Camping World! This may be another indication of recovery in the industry.
    I know you have spent a fair amount of time there. Chris and I visited for the first time last year around the Gypsy Journal rally. It is a must-see for everyone, RVer or not.

  4. I also applaud Camping World for it’s contribution. However, I would have thought better about the gift it there had not been strings attached–i.e, a Camping World Center in the Museum. A gift with strings attached is not a gift, it’s a bribe. Ask the IRS. If you receive something in return for giving the gift, then part or all of the gift is not tax deductible because it is not considered a gift.

  5. I also am concerned about the Lemonis deal. I would want to know more before I take a position in favor. I’ll bet the lease payment for the Camping World store is a sweetheart deal and not at the market rate. Lemonis also wants to put two Affinity Group members on the board of directors. This smacks of a takeover of the RV Hall of Fame.

  6. Camping World also supports the Escapees CARE Center in Livingston, Texas. Escapees members send Camping World receipts to the CARE center, who in turn sends them to Camping World. CW then donates a percentage of the total receipts to CARE. No, CW won’t service my vehicle either, but we do make some purchases there.

  7. I applaud Camping World for donating to CARE. However, I don’t think they should be allowed to put a “Camping World Outlet” on the Care grounds. It’s one thing to give a gift to a charity organization because you believe in the charity. It’s something else to give the gift in exchange for making a profit off of the gift. That’s why the IRS won’t allow the deduction for the gift if you get something in return.

  8. It is good news that the RV Hall of Fame is going to remain open. I am not sure I like the strings attached, putting in a sales department in the hall. I am not a business person so I do not know what goes on with something like this. CW is getting a lot out of the deal. We still will not use CW to work on the rig.

  9. While I agree to some extent with the above comments, let’s keep in mind that if if Mr. Lemonis had not stepped in, the RV Museum would have been closing its doors the end of March. Strings or no strings, it is the ONLY lifeline thrown them. So is it better to have the Museum remain open, even with “strings” or would you prefer to have it go away? Nobody else in the RV industry or the private sector did anything to help.

    Mr. Lemonis is a businessman, and I have no doubt he is looking at this from a profit standpoint, and as a valuable public relations tool. I believe the Museum already has one gallery named after a major player in the RV industry.

    But again, what are the options? Closure or survival?

  10. There is currently a large “vendor” room where manufacturers can display their products. It’s not being well used in my opinion. To put a Camping World Accessory Shop in there is a no brainer. Think of it as any museum’s gift shop. You don’t have to spend money in the gift shop but it’s there if you want to do so. I see this as a win-win.

  11. The difference is that the profits in a museum gift shop go to the museum.

  12. Howdy Nick,
    This is an answer to our prayers!!! I don’t agree with the ‘strings’, either, but at least he is giving back some of the profits he makes off of us… I will 1/2 way change my ‘mind’ about the Affinity organiziation, but they will not put any of their ‘high-dollar’ stuff on or in my RVs… $71 for loosening & retightening 4 bolts!!


  13. I have to agree with the others that it would have been nice if the money was given without strings attached; however, I understand that Affinity and Camping World are having financial difficulties, and maybe this is the only way they can afford to “donate” the money. It would be nice if the other major players in the industry ponied up some funds to help the museum. A small donation from the manufacturers for each sale of a rig would go a LONG way toward funding the museum. After all, it’s THEIR rigs that are IN the museum.

  14. I actually think it will improve visitation to the museum since many people do look for Camping World stores.

  15. CW closed the Boling Brook,Illinois store southwest of Chicago so I thought they were in financial trouble. Hoodathunkit.

  16. I would hate to see any CW deal beyond a 2 year deal with some cash up front. Everyone knows that they are having financial trouble, have refinanced their debt and began hiding their financial reports from the public just a few months ago (after multi-million dollar losses quarter after quarter). I’d hate to hook my wagon to them right now in hopes of a savior. I have yet to see anything Lemonis has done that was not self-serving. He has no roots in the RV industry, and in my opinion, his only objective is getting CW and Affinity to an IPO as soon as possible and cashing in. If he had done anything in the past to make me think his intentions were pure, I’d be all for this idea. Proceed carefully!

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