Retail RV sales are on the skids as the industry faces weaker consumer demand.
“It appears RV industry retail sales for calendar year 2019 will be down versus last year in the mid-single-digit range, and this will elongate the recovery period for the industry,” Winnebago President and Chief Executive Michael Happe said on the company’s second-quarter earnings call.
June retail sales declined 18.7% year over year, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., a marketshare data provider.
RV sales and wholesale shipments across the industry have been trending downward for the past year. Industrywide, wholesale shipments in June declined 10.3% year over year, according to the RV Industry Association.
Camping World, a retail chain specializing in RVs, slashed its full-year EBITDA guidance 25% to the low-to-mid $200 million range — from $320 million to $340 million — to reflect potential margin compression and higher selling expenses going forward. Second-quarter EBITDA fell 28.2% to $99 million.
Additionally, Camping World’s new-vehicle sales decreased 3.5% to $779 million year over year, as unit sales decreased 6.3% to 22,906 units. Used-vehicle sales, however, increased 16.7% to $246 million.
While industry headwinds — such as decreasing dealer inventory — are likely to continue for the short-term, external factors could have a more lasting effect, Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis said on an earnings call. “We don’t know how uncertainties around tariffs, trade wars, political tensions, interest rates or stock market volatility are going to factor into consumer sentiment for RVs and the demand over the near-term,” he said.
Winnebago’s revenue for the quarter ended May 25 was $528.9 million, a decrease of 5.9% year over year that was driven largely by a sales decline in the motorized segment. Specifically, revenue for motorized RVs was down 34.6% to $160.2 million due to dealers continuing to lower their inventory levels, according to the earnings report. However, revenue in the towable RV segment grew 10.8% to $346.8 million for the quarter.
Uncertainty with tariffs is weighing on consumers, Happe said, adding that weather presented an early challenge during the sales season. “While consumer sentiment in the broader RV market is yet to recover from the bearish trajectory we have witnessed over the last year, we remain confident in the long-term retail prospects for the RV industry,” he said. “And while we will not use weather as an overt singular excuse, it is no secret that the spring conditions of 2019 to kick off our selling season, especially in the northern half of the country, were some of the most challenging in recent memory.”
A “potential” easing of interest rate hikes and the prospects of wage growth are tailwinds that Winnebago believes will keep consumer sentiment levels stable, Happe added.