Floor traffic at Mike Regan’s two RV dealerships outside Austin, Texas, is up 30% compared with last May. And the reason is fear. Cooped-up Americans desperate to get out after months of lockdowns are dreaming of doing something—anything—that resembles a vacation. But a majority of them worry a second wave of the coronavirus is coming, and think politicians have pushed too fast to reopen. Unsurprisingly, when it comes to getting out of Dodge, the close-quarters of an airline cabin are a no-go.
That’s where the “Covid camper” comes in.
After a six-week hiatus, Regan said business has been so brisk that he may not have enough trailers and motor homes to meet demand. “The minute the campgrounds opened on May 1 and the governor turned everyone loose, our business went through the roof,” said Regan, whose sales at his Crestview dealerships were down about 50% just last month.
For decades, sales of motor homes and travel trailers you hitch to your car were a reliable indicator of the beginning—and end—of a recession. Sales would dip as a downturn approached, and rise right before a recovery. But this time, it’s different: sales are rising as America enters its worst contraction since the Great Depression.
The customers coming to Crestview fall into three groups, Regan said: Those who wanted to come during the shutdown and couldn’t; the annual spring customer enticed by the promise of summer; and a new group—people considering an RV for the first time because of the pandemic. Those customers are probably most responsible for the jump in business, he said. Mike Rhoades is one of them.
The 73-year-old resident of Kyle, Texas, said he and his wife Carol cancelled scheduled trips to Germany, South America, New Zealand and Australia. Instead, the former transportation industry executive bought a 30-foot travel trailer—and a used Toyota pickup to pull it.