RV industry continues to see more demand

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Sales of travel trailers and motor homes continue to improve with demand for some models nearing the peak volume before the Great Recession, a new report by the investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co. says.

Dealers reported solid gains in retail motor home sales, up about 25 percent, and towable trailers, up about 8 percent, from July through September, Baird analyst Craig Kennison noted in the report Friday.

Sales in the marine industry tend to follow the lead of the RV industry.

Demand for motor homes remains far below peak volume, down 50 percent from 2004, suggesting more growth potential as the recovery unfolds, Kennison said in a report by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Baird is based in Milwaukee.

The demand for towables is approaching the peak volume of 2007, with dealers noting that lower-priced units were selling well, consistent with a broader "affordability" trend in leisure products, Kennison said.

"Inventory bumped higher, according to dealers, partly driven by normal seasonal patterns. Dealer sentiment remains high (69 on a 100 scale), so we are not alarmed," Kennison said.

"We remain bullish on [recreational vehicle] retail as a wealth effect releases pent-up demand, especially in motor homes," he said.

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association reports that wholesale shipments to retailers tracked by the association have continued to steadily climb, with shipments rising to 246,483 units through August, a gain of 9 percent from the 226,125 that were shipped through the first eight months of 2013.

The monthly total for August shipments was 5.8 percent above the same month last year, at 26,441 units. The RVIA projects that wholesale RV shipments are expected to reach 349,900 by the end of this year, a gain of 9 percent from the 2013 total of 321,200. Shipments are also expected to edge higher in 2015, to 361,700 units.