June 21st, 2024

Pandemic has sparked resurgence in the RV market


By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on February 9, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber The interior of a travel trailer is seen at the Prairie Sky RV show at Exhibition Park last weekend.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every element of life, it has actually benefitted the recreational vehicle industry.
Sales of RVs have increased during the pandemic and customers are facing long waits to purchase some types such as Class A motorhomes due to demand and parts shortages.
Attila Braun, president and founder of Prairie Sky RV, said Friday that people have realized camping is a safe way to engage in recreation during the pandemic.
Prairie Sky staged an RV show at the Lethbridge Exhibition last weekend and interest was strong as people wandered through the travel trailers and fifth-wheels that filled two parts of the pavilion.
Missing were Class A motorhomes because Braun doesn’t have any in stock and won’t until much later this year despite having some on order since last fall.
“People have more disposable income now than before because they haven’t been able to travel for two years. So they do have some cash put aside and they’re using that cash to buy RVs,” Braun said.
“That disposable income is available, more so now because of the pandemic than before,” he added.
“Camping in an RV is a very safe thing you can do. And why is that? Because you’re in your own space, you’ve got your own kitchen, your own bathroom, your own living space. You’re not around anybody. You’re inside in your confined space or you’re outside in nature far away from people. Even in campgrounds, you’re extremely physically distanced from all the other campers. And this is why camping is a good option for people during a pandemic,” Braun added.
“You’re not sharing a bathroom in a restaurant or a hotel or a kitchen. You’ve got your very own space. And you’re either in here or you’re outside,” Braun added.
“That’s why sales are soaring at RV dealerships.”
The RV show took up a whopping 75,000 square feet of Exhibition space with units of many sizes and prices – up to nearly $200,000 – capturing the attention of shoppers.
Prairie Sky, located just off the highway in Coaldale, has a 12,000 square foot indoor showroom on site where people can shop comfortably year round. That showroom can house 15 units at any given time. It also has a full-time staff of technicians who all stayed on the job during the pandemic, Braun said.
But supply during the pandemic can’t meet the demand with a worldwide shortage of product and parts, the latter which are largely made in China and shipped overseas in containers for assembly in the U.S., he said.
“RVs are selling quickly, the demand is high, the availability of parts and product is low because there are worldwide parts shortages, there are tens of thousands of orders for RVs in the whole range from travel trailers to fifth wheels to motorhomes and in the factories they have so many orders they can’t keep up,” Braun said.
That is due to a higher demand for product and the parts shortage which has caused a disruption in the supply chain, he said.
“There are continual price increases with RVs that we’re hit with almost every month and that’s because of parts shortages, it’s because of shipping container costs from China to the U.S. These shipping containers are four and five times the cost of what they used to be.”
About 50 per cent of RV parts come from China, he added.
With shipping costs higher, that means parts and manufacturing costs are higher which are then passed on to consumers, Braun said.
COVID outbreaks at factories where workers can’t work in socially distanced spaces have also impacted supply, he said.
“We’re paying a premium for freight to get the product from Indiana,” which Braun calls the trailer manufacturing capital of the world.
“The freight from there to Canada is significantly higher than it used to be,” he said.
Prairie Sky first opened its doors in 2010 when Braun, who previously ran Looker Office Equipment with his brother for 18 years, decided to take on a new adventure with brother-in-law Perry Layton and friend Clarence Arnoldussen.

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