Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis said the acquisition landscape is the best he has seen since joining the RV industry 20 years ago to the day.
“In the 20 years that I have been doing this, including the 2008 period, 2009 period,” Lemonis said, “I have never seen the quality of acquisitions and the quantity of acquisitions at these low prices ever in the history of being in this business. We are not going to miss out on that opportunity.”
While discussing the RV dealership group’s first-quarter performance, Lemonis said Camping World acquired or agreed to acquire 10 stores in the past five months. Camping World is in the process of acquiring 20 more, he said.
Lemonis said Camping World historically paid multiples of two to four times earnings for acquisitions but the asking price dropped recently.
“… (I)ncluding some deals that are very simple—buy my real estate and inventory and I’ll sell,” Lemonis said.
He said Camping World has a five-year plan to grow its store base by 50%. The dealership group currently operates 188 locations, meaning Camping World would plan to acquire or open 94 additional stores in that time.
RV dealers historically have confidence heading into the spring or summer sales months, Lemonis said, and Camping World acquisitions typically come in the fall after a store does not perform well over the summer.
Seeing store sales activity as high as it has been in the spring has been unusual, he said.
“In some cases, there’s 30- to 40-year dealers that have just decided that it is time for their family to exit,” Lemonis said. “You have multi-generational dealers, second-generation, third-generation owners or some 40-year-old dealers that are in their 70s that have just said, ‘Wow, the last couple of years were great. Consolidators are starting to really capitalize on the market, the dynamics of how consumers are buying today, interacting today, communicating today, I cannot keep up with and I want to make sure this business that I have built with my family for 40 years, I can extract value so that my family can experience generational wealth.’”
On average, excluding real estate, Lemonis said the company is spending about $5 million per acquisition per rooftop.
In other news:
Lemonis said Camping World reduced its new RV inventory by nearly $200 million in the quarter, far more than the $140 million the company expected.
Camping World stores have about 19% of their current inventory as 2022 models, totaling around 5,000 RVs company wide. The total is down from almost 45% of all inventory as 2022 models to start the year.
Stores have about 166 new RVs per location, down from a historical average of 245 RVs from the 2016-19 time.
“We expect to continue to be extremely disciplined around RV stocking levels, particularly new,” he said, “as we believe pressure will continue on both new RV demand and new RV margin for the next four to six months.”
Camping World service revenue dropped in the first quarter, but Lemonis cited much of the loss to furniture sales not made to OEMs in the period.
He said the company instituted over $40 million in wage increases across the company’s service platform.
“The stability and strength of our service parts and collision business,” Lemonis said, “is what differentiates us from everybody else.”
In the first quarter, the service team grew revenue from customer pay, reaching out to consumers to perform maintenance and repair on their RVs, and reconditioning used RVs before selling them.
Lemonis said nationwide about 11 million RVs are currently on the road.
“Our service business has never been stronger,” he said. “Our technician count has never been stronger, and that is a part of our business that we are going to continue to allocate human capital, financial capital and technology to because it has 65%-70% plus margins.”
Camping World said helping the RV industry’s health was part of the company’s duty, which means working with OEMs to get them manufacturing again.
“We are the pacesetter as a company of where this industry goes in terms of its volume,” he said, “but we do not want to be the only one holding the bag, and we are concerned about the number of 2022s that other dealers have. While we are outperforming that by a material amount, we have to be concerned about the health of the overall industry.”
The result could mean Camping World looking to order 2024 models to its lots sooner rather than later.
“Our manufacturing partners need to get manufacturing again and we have to do a good job of helping them do that,” he said. “Other dealers who are faced with sizable curtailments on their ’22 are at risk of either having their floorplan pulled or their manufacturers not being willing to ship them based on exposure. There is this balance there that we have to help mitigate. I would expect that our order positions with our key manufacturers like Thor, Forest River and Winnebago will actually start to increase here and their backlog as it relates to our company, should increase over the coming months.”
Lemonis said the 2023 model year likely will be the shortest gap, in terms of volume, since the 2019 model year. The reason, he said, is because the company did not order many 2023 models with so much 2022 inventory on lots and 2024 models arriving in the next four to five months.