CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Barry Brown’s family opened up Browns RV Superstore in Chesterfield County more than 3 decades ago.
He said since 2010 they’ve seen steady growth in sales. Baby boomers continue to retire and millennials have been looking for something a little different than the typical home. “I think the tiny house series helped boost some RV sales as well,” Brown said.
Nationally, things aren’t as hot for the RV industry. According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), RV shipments decreased by more than 4 percent in 2018. The first annual decrease in shipments since 2009.
The RVIA said RV shipments are down 20 percent compared to this time last year.
Brown said he has realized over the years that people use the RV industry as a barometer for how the economy is trending. “In the 33 years I’ve been a part of the RV industry, we’ve been first in and first out from the economy standpoint.”
Brown said they haven’t seen a decrease in sales at their dealership, but knows of other dealers across the country who are seeing some drops in sales.
Research economists like Joseph Von Nessen with the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business said RV sales can be an economic indicator. Before recent recessions, there has been a decrease in RV shipments, similar to what we’re seeing now. “RV sales are an indicator of consumer confidence. It’s a luxury good. It’s a product consumers buy when they’re confident about the future. When they’re seeing more disposable income,” Von Nessen said.
Von Nessen said this is one of the many metrics economists monitor when looking ahead.
Brown said the national numbers need a little bit of context. He said 2017 was a record-breaking year for many in the industry. “We had such a great year in 2017. It’s hard to maintain that year after year. It’s hard to keep doing those type of numbers.” He doesn’t believe this decrease in RV shipments is a sign the economy is going downhill.
Von Nessen said there could be other factors that have led to the decrease. “It can also be affected by other factors like ongoing trade negotiations. If the input price goes up that’s going to increase the final price of the RV and that is going to put a damper on demand as well.”
The RVIA predicts RV shipments will increase again in 2020.