CLEARWATER, Minn. - The gleaming new campers and motorhomes rolling into the St. Cloud/Clearwater RV Park are as common as mosquitos at a Minnesota cookout.
“These five are all brand new,” says Scott Shoen as he sits in the midst of the campground, turned new RV showroom.
Schoen and his friends are among those fueling record sales for the RV industry.
“I think seven of our friends bought new ones this year,” Schoen says as he points to a new fifth-wheel camper. “That one just got picked up at PleasureLand yesterday.”
It’s part of the trend that’s bringing nothing but happiness to PleasureLand’s sales manager Vinnie Binfeld.
“It's been insane,” Binfeld says.
From a 2009 recession low of 165,700 units, national RV sales are expected to top 472,000 this year – a record high.
RV shipments in the first quarter of 2017 were up 12 percent over last year, with motorhome sales up more than 30 percent, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.
“From where we were at then, to where we're at now, it's amazing,” says Binfeld.
Low gas prices, low interest rates and low unemployment are all contributing to the boom.
Toss in new RV features like outdoor second kitchens, fireplaces and space enhancing slide-outs, in campers priced below $30,000, and it’s a recipe made for the expanding millennial market.
“Millennials are putting a big premium on work/life balance,” Binfeld says. “They can shop everything online, they’re real tech savvy, so when they come here they may know more about the product than you do.”
Jennifer Yttrie brought her three young children to PleasureLand to shop for a motorhome for family travel and her business.
She admits she never imagined herself in an RV. “No, no, I don't know that's something the typical person pictures,” she laughs.
One side effect: bulging campgrounds.
“We had to turn a lot of people away last weekend, and this weekend too,” says Nicole Potter as she works the front desk at St. Cloud/Clearwater RV Park.
Nicole’s parents own the campground. “During the week now it’s filling up because people can’t in on the weekends, so they’re coming in during the week,” explains Nicole’s mother, Mary Peterson.
Missy Schoen's family pulled into the campground this spring in her family’s new fifth-wheel trailer.
She typifies both the trend and the attitude. “It's home away from home, I'd actually rather live in my camper than my house.”