Local RV dealers see sales increase during COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic arrived in America just in time for spring break and the start of the annual vacation season. And while flights and cruises were being cancelled, one vacation industry was perfectly positioned to take advantage of the situation.

But the owner of a Franklin County business within that industry recalled that early on in 2020 he was not sure what the coronavirus would do to his business.

"There was a lot of unknown and I didn't know what was gonna happen in two weeks, in two months in two years," said Jeff Shaw.

Shaw opened a recreational vehicle dealership in Youngsville in 2012, when he was just 30.

So after just eight years of operation, he was naturally concerned about surviving the shut-down that came at the start of his biggest sales season. "It made a lot of a lot of us nervous here."

That was before Jonathan DeVaughn came to work at Shaw RV as a service advisor.

But he and his outdoors-loving wife were very familiar with camping.

"I started us down a path of tent camping and realized very quickly that it was not his favorite thing to do. So enter the camper," Krystal DeVaughn said laughing.

"I love the outdoors," said DeVaughn. "I've always done stuff outdoors. But when it comes to going to sleep, I like to be in a soft bed and in the air conditioning."

So two years ago they bought a travel trailer RV and during the pandemic quickly realized it would come in handy.

"Having the RV allowed us to go on vacation a lot quicker than what it would have been if we had to wait for hotels and rental properties and all those things to open up," said Krystal DeVaughn.

Her husband added, "It is the absolute perfect pandemic type of vacationing."

And the RV demand during the pandemic helped get Jonathan DeVaughn hired at Shaw RV where in April of last year, business took off like a rocket.

"At the beginning of 2020 we were hoping for about a 20% increase in sales and it turned into 48%," Shaw noted.

Shaw says the industry is expecting an even better year in 2021, if production can keep up with demand.

And right now, the supply chain is struggling because people are even buying RV's as investments according to Shaw.

"We've had several customers that have told us that," he said. "They bought multiple campers and they're using certain websites and apps to rent these things out."

Shaw says the entire outdoor industry is booming and he expects the enthusiasm of those who have found the lifestyle will continue long after the pandemic.

The DeVaughn's think so too, especially considering the economics.

"You don't have to get the most expensive one. You don't have to get the cheapest one, but it's very affordable," said DeVaughn.

His wife points out that the savings continue after the purchase.

Campgrounds are much cheaper than hotels, cooking your own meals is cheaper than eating out and there are no pet sitting fees because they can come along too.
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