Camping World Details Carvana-Like Plans

A picture of Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis talking to an investor day audience while members of the dealership's management team are at the stage near a projector showing slides

Camping World will launch a nationwide online sales platform in 2022, primarily focused on used RV sales.

The announcement came during an investor presentation Tuesday in Utah. Camping World will be able to sell new and used RVs through the system, which it has dubbed Highways. However, comparing the system to Carvana, the focus primarily will be on used sales.

The platform will enable seamless online consumer transactions, said Matt Wagner, Camping World senior vice president of RV inventory management, digital marketing, media services and RV dealership e-commerce. Consumers will be able to order any RV from anywhere in the county and have the RV delivered wherever the consumer desires.

“There is nobody in America today – auto dealer, boat dealer, RV dealer, powersports dealer – that will be able to, tomorrow, sell their product, new or used, in every state in America online,” company Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis told the in-person investor audience. “When we talk about adding an additional $1 billion of revenue, with a traditional 24% margin that comes with that, in markets where we do not have stores, that is the mechanism and the vehicle. No other dealer will be able to compete with it. Period, end of story.”

Wagner said the program would launch no later than April 2022.

“For us, the brand Highways, which will roll out in the first quarter, hopefully, will be the knockout punch,” Lemonis said. “I promise you we are bracing and preparing for it, both on the service side and the inventory side. I don’t know how you compete.”

Before the launch, Camping World will have licenses to sell RVs in all 48 contiguous U.S. states. Partnerships with transport companies will enable shipments to be delivered anywhere. Because the company will have licenses everywhere, Wagner said crossing state boundaries during transport is not an issue. The company simply will change the paper on which that used asset is transacted on.

“The bill of sale? No issue,” he said.

Financing will be conducted through an online virtual financing company with which Camping World partners. Wagner said the consumer would need to engage with a customer service agent only at the transaction’s end to provide a digital signature and arrange for delivery/transport.

Camping World will tout its ongoing relationships with more than 3,000 standalone service facilities nationwide, in addition to its own 2,100 service bays across 185 nationwide stores, to provide service to online buyers. The access would reduce issues online buyers trying to gain service from local dealers from which the RVs were not bought.

“Highways is our purely digital transaction framework both for new and used. We expect to execute in all 48 states, with financing happening exclusively online,” Lemonis said. “So, for those of you that are Carvana fans, we think this is maybe even better.”

To feed the online demand Highways is expected to receive, Camping World said it has grown its used inventory substantially over the past year. Today, used inventory is more than $360 million, the company told investors. Last year that total was $130 million.

“Our used inventory has grown,” Lemonis said. “When we keep hearing there is no inventory to buy, no inventory to buy …”

Other issues addressed during the presentation included:

  • Lemonis detailed the company’s investments it made in furniture and appliances. Saying the moves would not change Camping World’s relationships with current vendors, he stressed the company would not continue to lose margins on products management believed it could do itself. Allure, the furniture manufacturer in which Camping World invested last year, is an example of the company’s supply-side growth. “We believe we can be a disruptor in aggregating parts and pieces,” Lemonis said. “We hear the word ‘manufacturer’ in the RV industry; it is a bit of a misnomer. They are assemblers. They are aggregating parts and pieces, and what we know is, we wanted to play in the things that we believe have the most margin opportunity and make up the biggest ticket. You look at the inside of a unit, furniture is a big part of that.”
  • Asked about potential acquisition targets, Lemonis said buying an insurance business or a competitor in the roadside assistance space were possibilities. A campground acquisition also could be possible.
  • Camping World will launch a private party sales marketplace next year called Lemonis said the dealer would be a facilitator and fee collector between private party sales. He noted nearly 1 million individuals sold through private party transactions, outside the dealership space, in the past 12 months.
  • Camping World’s design centers, slated to open next year, will provide opportunities for Camping World to be in the flooring, cabinet, countertop, lighting, toilets and showers spaces, Lemonis said. Part of the reason Highways and the design renovation centers are coming out at the same time, the company said, was to use the supplies to refurbish used products and set a higher standard for used RVs on the market. Management wants Camping World to set a premium price for used products because the quality is above expectations, as management said there is no current standard for used RV quality. “Design centers are built to work with the existing consumer who wants to do DIY,” the company said, “but the used inventory we have now will go through a much more elaborate thought process for what reconditioning means.”
  • Camping World has 69,000 open service work orders a day, with 5,500 people a week dropping off because they cannot be handled. The average open work order is 22 days, with the company saying it takes about three weeks until consumers hear from service staff after the RV is dropped off for service. The dealership has added 21% more technicians this year than it had in 2020.
  • Handling consumer complaints, particularly on RV quality, is “the bane of our existence,” Lemonis said. “It is the hardest thing we deal with.” The company spends $2 million a year staffing customer service agents to answer and resolve complaints.
  • To better improve service, Lemonis said the company will have to invest “significant dollars” in building repair and replacement parts, knowing some of them will go in the garbage. “So, we are going to use our DCs (distribution centers) to take matters into our own hands, particularly on the private label side, where we will just start bringing parts in every model year saying, these are the things that continually break. We may just have to stock them. We have to take matters into our own hands, cause, no disrespect to the manufacturers, it is an unsophisticated process. Unfortunately, the manufacturer does not get the black eye like the dealer does.”
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