The place screamed opulence with its four flat-screen televisions, surround sound, tiled floors, supple white leather couches, air conditioning, king-size bed, two bathrooms, hand-crafted cabinets and large, stainless steel refrigerator. It was fit for a king.
It wasn’t a castle, though. It wasn’t even a house. It was a 42-foot Allegro Bus from Tiffin Motorhomes, the star of the 23rd annual Inland Northwest RV Show and Sale. At $326,000 – twice the median home price in Spokane last year – it is the most expensive RV in the show at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center through Sunday.
RV sales took a dive with the economy. Rising gas prices, less discretionary spending, a struggling job market and lower consumer confidence all contributed to the slump.
Through November, shipments from manufacturers to retailers rose nearly 48 percent from the same period in 2009, according to the Retail Vehicle Industry Association. Many industry watchers expect sales to continue to rise in 2011, especially as baby boomers begin to retire in droves.
“We’ve got 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day this year,” said Jim Cotter, event promoter. “The RV business should be better. I think they’ll see an increase in the next couple years.”
“Most of these people have planned for a long time to buy a motor home when they retire to travel the States,” he said.
It’s not just retirees buying up RVs in America; Canadians are too, accounting for a slice of the sales, said Ernie Marston of RVs Northwest Inc.
“Their dollar is on par with ours here and they can get a better deal (in the States),” he said. “They can get more bang for their buck.”
So with more people ready to hit the road than in the last several years, RV makers need to be in tune with the latest trends.
“Electronics are huge,” said Jamie Allen, a salesman with RVs Northwest Inc. “That’s what’s new: getting people’s accommodations from their house into their RV.”
Allen said there are two types of people who buy RVs: “You have the people who want to go camping and you have the people who want to live in their motor home and go south.”
He said younger people typically buy the smaller, pop-up tent trailers, which make up a growing share of sales as people look for more affordable options than the amenity-filled models like the lavish Allegro Bus.
But whether shoppers are looking for something large, small or in between, the RV show probably has it. The show features $13 million in RVs and accessories, including fifth wheels, campers, motor homes, mini motor homes, tents and travel trailers.
“One of the things that draws (people) to the RV show is there are all makes and models under one roof,” Cotter said.