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Opinion: Will Lemonis corner the outdoor market?

Opinion: Will Lemonis corner the outdoor market?

By Greg Gerber
Writer and Podcaster

I think I have discerned Camping World’s retail strategy and it is brilliant.

Emperor Marcus Eralius Augustus Tiberious Lemonis, the part-time CEO of Camping World and full-time star of his reality TV show, The Profit, announced yesterday that he was acquiring outdoor gear website TheHouse.com.

I’ve said before that Lemonis is no idiot. He’s shrewd, calculating and willing to take risks. But, when he does, he usually has a pretty good idea of the outcome before he takes his first step.

Yesterday’s announcement that Camping World is acquiring the House.com just weeks after acquiring Gander Mountain’s retail stores and website along with Overton’s online store – while buying up more RV dealers – seemed confusing at first glance.

Does Lemonis want to be in the retail or online business? Conventional wisdom says he can’t do both well. But, as anyone in the RV industry understands, Lemonis is anything but conventional.

Brick and mortar stores allow instant availability of products, provided people are willing to drive to the location to buy them. Traditional stores require more people and tremendous overhead for commercial real estate. As a result, prices are typically higher than when consumers buy items on the web.

Online stores require fewer employees, need less expensive warehouse space and offer a wider range of products at lower prices. However, buyers must wait one to four days for the items to be delivered.

What if Lemonis has developed a strategy to do both?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos briefly became the world’s wealthiest man yesterday at the helm of the online juggernaut. We know Lemonis has ambitions to be a major player in the outdoor industry.

Amazon’s free two-day delivery benefit for Prime members has been a game changer that has crushed shopping centers and malls around the nation. But, people still need to wait to get product delivered. Amazon Prime Now is testing same-day delivery in big cities that are home to major warehouses.

Lemonis has more than 100 smaller warehouses in the form of Camping World superstores scattered around the country.

Imagine people ordering aftermarket camping, boating and other recreation products at campingworld.com and enjoying several delivery options:

  • Free two-day shipping on orders totaling $50 or more.
  • Same-day delivery within 25 miles of a Camping World store for just $10 regardless of the amount ordered.
  • A $5 discount to pick up the order at a Camping World store.

Why offer a discount to pick it up products in a store? Because it saves Camping World shipping and delivery expenses, but, more importantly, Lemonis knows he’ll sell more impulse items when people come into the store.

This is a business model that even Amazon can’t compete against because the firm lacks retail centers. This gives Lemonis an opportunity to literally corner the outdoor product market and actually steal market share from Amazon – something few people don’t even think is a possibility.

Camping World remains the best option for buying out retiring RV dealerships because competitors like Campers Inn don’t have the capital to acquire locations at the same pace Lemonis currently enjoys.

Consequently, the firm will only expand its retail locations in the years ahead. When Camping World can claim 250 locations – and certainly by the time it can claim 500 locations – then it can approach RV manufacturers to become factory direct delivery centers. But, that’s the topic of another editorial.

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About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is a freelance writer and podcaster who has been writing about the RV industry since 2000. He is the former editor of RV Daily Report and can be reached at greg@rvdailyreport.com.

10 comments

  1. “Cornering” the Rv and outdoor industry is simply too big a bite to pull off. We have Winnebago with some 500 dealers and Buffett with Forest River to point out a few very big obstacles. No, I think he is building a network from which he can sell “paper’ being service contracts, warranties and the like .If I were he I would develop a lease back plan and set up each dealership with 50 to 100 rental units and the accessories to go along with their use. The key to doing this is in tax advantaged lease back motorhomes and maybe even towable.There is a ton of money to me made on damage waiver insurance and the like. This would make a lot of sense to me and that is where I would be going if I were “the king”. Just another aside is that as soon as you buy up all the supply in camping units…someone will start up I their garage. That is the RV way and it has been like that for ever. It’s hard to corner that kind of market!

  2. Your disrespect to Mr Lemonis is laughable. I expect you continue to carry a grudge because he probably would not give you the time of day. By the way as a “part time CEO” of Camping World he’s handling the biggest rv retailer in the world pretty deftly. You should take notes.

    • He probably would not give anyone the time of day, which seems to be the Mantra at Camping World Service and Sales departments. At least they are consistent, especially in the terrible customer service department. They better hope the current RV sales boom continues as their business is based solely on new buyers who do not know better that they can sucker in. Once the Camping World experience is savored, people usually do not give them the time of day.

  3. I suspect Marcus will complete any mission he sets his sights on. The business’ he invests in he expects to be self-sustaining after he gets them going. His only shortcoming is not getting a handle on the reputation of the service side of CW. CW biggest profit margin is in GS and all the warranties and insurance. As good as Thor stock has performed, I would have sold it for more CW stock but did not. Both await the next downturn to be sold at the beginning as the cycle will turn down again.

  4. I believe Marcus needs to play undercover boss and visit some of his Camping World establishments and see what really goes on. Camping World has a terrible reputation online at the various RV forums and is generally considered to be avoided at all costs for repairs or work in the shop. Some of the stores I have been in are poorly stocked, not well organized and it always seems like some common item I need is out of stock. Can’t make a sale when the item is not on the shelf. Most Camping World employees seem to be helpful and friendly but most of them seem to have never seen the inside of an RV much less used one. Personally, I have learned to bypass them as they seldom have what I need at the moment.

  5. Since the first time I saw Marcus actually working the sales desk at the Hershey show, I knew he was destiny to be a giant in the RV industry. We need to applaud him for what he has so far accomplished. He has changed the face of RV and RV Parts retailing. His next challenge is to be able to acquire managers who possess his drive, determination, and spirit. So far he hasn’t been able to do that. Most of his locations are poorly run. His employees for the most part are not well treated, and are very unhappy. His customers lack any loyalty to anything other than price.

    If he ever solves his people problems, he’ll reign as King of the RV jungle, and deservedly so.

  6. “His next challenge is to be able to acquire managers who possess his drive, determination, and spirit.”

    This is a large problem. Good people will not work for a company that does not respect its employees and the customers. Their words in a meeting.”We are a data mining company that happens to sell RV’s” How do you build a culture around a secondary goal when the first goal is in direct conflict with it?

    Marcus is a good man and i just believe he only listens to a few people and is missing the overall pulse of CW. It will be interesting to see how this works out in a few years. They dismantled Tom Johnson’s ( I know) and now I understand they have taken McGeorge RV in Virginia to 2/3rds or even less of what it was doing and most if not all the senior managers left in less than 60 days.

  7. I agree that Mr. Lemonis is a very good businessman and has built CW/GS into a major force in the RV industry. I even enjoy his reality TV show. However, I have personally experienced out of stock situations in some of his stores and very bad customer service in another. I won’t go into the details but because of the latter situation, they lost me as a customer.

  8. the rumors are starting of another BIG acquisition, camping world may soon become the “general” of the RV industry.

  9. General RV or Lazydaze… Hold on to your Wallets and be patient with the I’m new here people. That will be 4-6 months for the wrong part Sir! Not Sorry..
    Picking Vacation Dates? Best to have an alternative plan.

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