The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with the US economy, yet the RV industry is one segment of the economy that appears to be untouched. In fact, with RV dealerships reporting record sales nationwide, the pandemic has actually been a boon for the industry.
“Sales have been fantastic,” explained Brad Leach, CEO of Tom’s Camperland. “April, May, and June were company records, the best we’ve had in 43 years. It’s been talked about a lot. People aren’t taking airplanes, taking cruises, or traveling to Europe, people are looking for other ways to vacation. There’s no better way to do that safely than in a truck camper.”
One of the largest if not the largest truck camper dealership in the country, Tom’s Camperland has four locations in Arizona—Mesa, Surprise, Tucson, and Avondale. The dealership sells hundreds of new and used campers made by the biggest names in the industry including Lance, Palomino, Northwood Manufacturing (Arctic Fox and Wolf Creek), NuCamp Cirrus, Adventure Manufacturing (Eagle Cap, Adventurer, and Scout), Northern Lite, and Host. They also sell camper shells and truck toppers made by ARE, Leer, and Besttop. The dealership has been in business since 1977.
“I don’t know anybody who’s sold more truck campers for 40 years than us,” he said. “Stats are kind of tricky with truck campers because I can tell where we rank with travel trailers because they are registered. With truck campers you can’t really tell because they aren’t registered everywhere, but we’re usually ranked one or two with Lance, one or two with Eagle Cap, and one or two with NuCamp, so you can go off the numbers and when you sell every brand but for a couple, you can kind of figure out that we probably sell more than anybody in the country.”
So what are the demographics of those who are buying truck campers in record numbers? “We track all of that stuff through RV Trader where a lot of our leads come,” Brad explained. “In the last year, pre-COVID-19, the demographic has gotten younger. The older demographic has always been there, 20,000 people a day retire in the US. It will be that way for 20 years, but the increase has come from those between 35 and 55 years of age. A lot of that is coming from those who are looking for different ways to camp like truck campers and lightweight trailers and want something different than the RV grandpa owned. We still have all of the regular retired people, the over 55 crowd, but we have a lot of new buyers from the Gen-Z group.”
So what sets Tom’s Camperland apart from other dealerships? What’s the secret to their success? “A lot of it has to do with our people, we don’t have any turnover with sales people, our sales guys aren’t on commission. So when you get a sales guy at Tom’s Camperland he can actually talk about truck campers, which are way more difficult to sell and understand and talk about than travel trailers. It takes some real understanding and expertise. Everyone at Tom’s are truck camper experts, which is super rare, you don’t have to get the truck camper guy to answer questions. I think that’s what really sets us apart. We sell to people all over the country,” he said.
Tom’s Camperland sells more than just new and used truck campers. They also sell travel trailers, teardrops, toppers, and recently added class C motorhomes, making the dealership an even bigger force in the southwest. The best selling campers have been the Lance 650, the Lance 1172, the Eagle Cap 1200, the Arctic Fox 811, and the granddaddy of the them all, the Host Mammoth. Brad also predicts that Adventure Manufacturing’s brand new Scout brand is going to be a big seller as well. Brad says they look better in person than they do in pictures and they look pretty good in pictures. In fact, he just received three Scout Olympic campers and all three were sold before delivery.
In addition to offering buyers massive sales lots with air conditioned showrooms, Tom’s Camperland also boasts a full service center. The dealership sells and installs anything truck camper related to get owners rolling, including Torklift and HappiJac tie-downs and turnbuckles, air bags, Timbrens, Torklift Stableloads, and Torklift extension hitches.
So what’s the most popular truck camper tie-down system that Tom’s sells? “We’ve been selling Happijac forever, but once these trucks went to aluminum beds they just didn’t have an application, so it’s Torklift now, about 90 percent,” he said.
I’m in the Deep South and know exactly what you mean. It’s become a real challenge to find a remote place to boondock in this part of the country. Boat ramps often work. It was impossible in the North East when we traveled to Kennebunk, ME. We lived two years in Florida and I’d love to take a slow roll thru there with the TC and boat but boondocking would be impossible and winter would be out without reservations and a strict schedule a year in advance.
I got mine and wish so many others wouldn’t get theirs but that ain’t reality so I say “welcome to the club and I wish you well.” I also say to those lucky folks in the West “move over I’m setting up my rig right here. Ya want a beer?”
I’ve never boon-docked in my life and find theirs plenty of room for me. I could never camp without the amenities, living in Florida we do enough of that at home with thunderstorms and hurricanes. I was on the ICW last weekend with very little competition and no I don’t think it’s the virus. It’s just summertime in Florida. Hot as hell!!! With that said, perhaps a little time off from the Facebook and twitter garbage would be good for us all especially the younger newbies.
I know I am probably odd man out again, but I don’t see the massive uptick in RV sales of all types as a plus for those of us who value being able to get away from the maddening crowd!
I know increased sales are great for dealerships, but what does it do for end users? I already have TC owners I know advising me of the challenge finding space in their former haunts with the influx of newbies!
Ard, there is still plenty of room where we go. If you find someone inyour private spot, just keep moving across the river and up the fire road. I don’t subscribe to the, “I’ve got mine, so don’t follow me” idea.
There are so many changes in our society right now, like the coming Revolution and Communism, an influx of TC’s will be a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of terra firma available especially in the Southwest.
Mike is just doing his gig keeping up with newzy trends. I predicted in early March the high sales of TC’s and RV’s in general as one outcome of the China Virus. As a result, a LOT more people may be living in their TC’s. That has been an ongoing trend in our fair city for a decade now, only to be exacerbated by the Virus Scare. jefe
I also don’t push the “I’ve got mine”. What I reflect back on is here in the Southeast finding spots has become so challenging we debate packing it in and finding some new sort of recreation.
Being old I can recall when reservations were not mandatory in order to find a spot in the state parks or National Forest. Now not only are reservations an essential part of life, but making them a year in advance is the norm. Kind of moves the bar on the definition of spontaneity. I wish we could just move across the river or up the fire road. 🙂