RV, boat, pool sales on rise, dealers say

6/4/2011

King's Campers salesman Mark Sukanen, left, talks with Brenda Janiszewski and Tracy Gleason of Junction City as the couple look at campers Thursday at King's Campers in Wausau. / (Dan Young/Wausau Daily Herald)

The still-sluggish economy and high gasoline prices might be throwing some consumers for a loop, but not those who crave their summer recreational time.

Recreational vehicle and boat dealers are reporting an increase in sales of 10 percent to 30 percent over last year -- a surprising showing in a sector of the economy that relies entirely upon discretionary spending.

"It's been quite strong this year for us, and an increase over last year even with weather being not as nice," said Ray Polzer, president and owner of M&J Marine in Mosinee. "We're seeing a lot more activity, and people have a positive outlook."

Polzer said a rebound in some customers' 401(k) packages means they are willing to spend money, and sales of aluminum fishing boats, pontoon boats and personal watercraft are especially strong.

The biggest challenge for Polzer is a delay in the supply chain because of natural disasters, including the Japan earthquake that disrupted engine maker Mercury's production, and caution among companies about producing too much product.

Ron Gajewski, owner and general manager at King's Campers in Rib Mountain, said his business also is booming.

Customers bought 200 campers, travel trailers and motor homes through the end of May, a 30 percent increase over the same time last year, Gajewski said. That's on top of a 30 percent increase in 2010 sales from 2009.

He also said the phrase "high gas prices" is seldom heard on his lot.

"I think as long as gas is $4 or less (per gallon), people are in the mindset they're still going to make a purchase," he said. "They may not be traveling as far, probably, or maybe not travel as often and stay someplace longer."

Although sales are down from 2010 at Placeway Pools, Spas & Patio in Wausau, Manager Mike Bourguignon said sales last year were exceptionally strong with warm weather starting in March.

"Generally speaking, people tend to buy earlier in the season, regardless of weather, but a fair number are motivated by the weather," he said.

That especially is true for above-ground pools, which are cheaper than in-ground pools -- $2,000 to $5,000 compared with $30,000 -- and thus a more likely impulse purchase, Bourguignon said.

But he also said higher gas prices help businesses such as Placeway because people invest in permanent leisure purchases such as pools instead of vacations.

Source WausauDailyHerald.com