By Phil Ingrassia
President, RV Dealers Association
How many RV dealerships are there in the United States? It’s a simple question, but it always requires a layered response. Do you mean any type of dealer who sells an RV? Or, like the RV Dealers Association, are you focused on dealers with new RVs as their major product line?
Every five years, U.S. businesses are required to complete a survey sent out by the U.S. Census Bureau and report their annual sales, product lines, payroll expenditures, and other information. Called the U.S. Economic Census, the reports provide a snapshot of the amount and types of business and services dealers provide for their customers.
As data is released about RV dealerships, RV Executive Today analyzes and reports the results to the membership and the industry. RVDA also gets requests for dealer data throughout the year from members looking to show the economic impact of RV dealerships, as well as companies and investment groups looking at the scope of RV retailing.
The data is also a credible source for RVDA and state associations when talking to government officials about the importance of the RV business to the U.S., state, and local economies.
The latest economic census data was collected in 2012, when the RV industry was only halfway back to full recovery, and was just recently released. The data prior to that was collected in 2007, just shortly before the economy and the RV industry went south.
RV Executive Today covered the top line results of the most recent census in the October and November issues last year. The big takeaway is that the number of U.S. RV dealership locations declined 15.5 percent to 2,619 at the end of 2012, from 3,100 in 2007.
RVDA also asked the Census Bureau, for the first time, to isolate RV dealerships that sold new RVs, and that number is slightly lower than the total RV dealership number at 2,332. The census also shows that the number of automobile dealers who reported selling RVs dropped from 1,943 in 2007 to 707 in 2012, as car dealers dropped RV sales or closed.
As more data gets released, there are some other interesting trends to note. The U.S. population continued to grow during the recession even as the number of dealers selling RVs declined. The upshot of that is that the U.S. population per dealership location was 23 percent higher in 2012 at 119,860 than in 2007 when it was 97,190. For further comparison, the number of people per dealership location was 88,417 in 1997.
The next round of data released later this year will be a state-by-state snapshot that will allow us to see what changes occurred to RV retailing regionally. Again, this will be valuable information for RVDA, the industry, and dealer groups to analyze the economic impact of RV retailing.
Thanks for your support, and have a great spring selling season.
This information originally appeared in the April edition of RV Executive magazine. It is reprinted with permission of the RV Dealers Association.