The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association commissioned an Economic Impact Study on the RV industry, released on June 7, 2016. The study found that the RV industry contributes about $49.7 billion in economic output or 0.28 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Through its production and distribution linkages, the industry impacts firms in 426 of the 440 sectors of the United States economy.
Nationwide, the industry is responsible for 216,170 jobs, both directly and inderectly, creating an economic impact of $37.5 billion. The full study results, along with each individual state and congressional district's economic impact is available on the website by clicking here .
Mon Jul 11, 2016
In 1929, the United States of America had just entered a whole new era of business and culture. President Herbert Hoover had just taken office, succeeding Calvin Coolidge. The very first Academy Awards ceremony was presented in Los Angeles in May.
By September, the Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked at an all-time high of 381.17, showing the health of the business in the United States at the time.
The automobile industry had started to take off. The Ford Model Ts had sold 15 million models in 1927, while other larger automotive companies began to take the stage, such as Buick, General Motors, Chrysler, Oldsmobile and Cadillac.
In this same year, Wally Byam built the world’s first Airstream trailer on a Ford Model T chassis. It was a tent contraption at first, but was later replaced by a teardrop shelter. It was easy to tow, caught the eye of those walking on the streets and those driving in other cars and people began to ask Byam questions.
Soon enough, he had founded Airstream, one of the first RV companies.
As fate would have it, in October of that year, the stock market crashed, plunging the United States into nearly a decade-long Great Depression, wiping out more than $30 million at the New York Stock Exchange. That high Dow Jones number in September would not see numbers reach that high again until the 1950s, almost 30 years later.
However, there was something about that time, and something about older times in general, that make people curious, enthralled and ultimately nostalgic for times long past and memories that seem to give off that golden tinge of longing.
Over the next 30 years, Airstream manufactured several types of trailers, but the Great Depression, and subsequently, World War II, seemed to stymie the production. But still, the demand existed.
Finally, as we zoom forward to today, almost 90 years after the first Airstream trailer was built, that desire for the past still remains, as vibrant as ever. But this time, the people who harbor such thoughts and desires are remembering the childhood vacations with their family in RVs built by a wide variety of manufacturers and associating them with the times of good, innocent fun, free of any responsibilities, stresses and jobs. It was a time of campfires, S’mores, fishing next to grandpa in a small boat, cozy beds inside the large trailer and ultimately, a sense of freedom that they haven’t felt for years.
According to Tony Staab at Rich & Sons Camper Sales in Grand Island, Nebraska, that is the reason so many people are pining for the past and re-imagining the retro.
“RVing started out as a tradition in their family,” Staab says. “They remember what it was like 20-30 years ago as a kid going camping with their family, sleeping in the trailer, cooking meals and doing all sorts of recreation sports. Now, in their late 20s or 30s, they decide they want to do that with their families, so they go out and buy an RV with their discretionary dollars. That’s how we’re getting the nostalgia leading to the millennials buying more RVs now than ever before.”
Staab, in addition to running Rich & Sons Camper Sales, also serves as the Nebraska state delegate to the national RVDA. This is the biggest trend he’s currently seeing throughout the state – and it’s supported by many other states throughout the country.
“People enjoy it. It becomes a pastime for families. When you’re used to camping, and have a job and a family, you do it with your family,” he says. “It’s a tradition. It’s passed down. They used to be kids. Now they’re camping with their children and then their grandchildren. It’s a nice progression.”
Airstream still builds its models similar to the way it used to, with aircraft style manufacturing creating a sleek aluminum surface, so it’s not hard to think about the way they were built once upon a time.
However, many more manufacturers are starting to capitalize on the retro feel, getting a piece of the market pie that is so popular among consumers right now, both the baby boomer generations as well as the millennial crowd who remember going on vacations with their parents and grandparents.
It’s become a selling point on many manufacturers’ lists. For example, Gulf Stream Coach, Riverside RV, Winnebago Industries and Heartland Recreational Vehicles, among several others all have announced some type of retro RVs and have found the customer response to be enormous in nearly every case.
The emphasis on nostalgia, however, does not mean that the customers want everything inside the RV to hearken back to the days of yore. Instead, all of the RV manufacturers are still putting all of the state-of-the-art technology inside the RVs to still make them compatible with the more modern RVs today.
“As a category, the retro trailer group is doing real well,” says Paul Campbell, the marketing director for Gulf Stream Coach. “We think we have the leading product in that category. It has the ‘50s look and throwback vibe and all the current state-of-the-art appliances, flat screen TVs, stainless steel.”
When Byam built the world’s first Airstream trailer, it was considered revolutionary and new, making people on the brink of industrial revolution crave the newest trends.
How times shift. Now, rather than an emphasis on the future, the consumer is focused on recreating the past.
Somewhere, Wally Byam is smiling.