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By Jason Epperson

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Camping and RV Industry News for the week of 9.18.21.

Search Intensifies for Gabby Petito

Much of the nation has been gripped by the disappearance of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, who was reported missing by her family over the weekend after she had been traveling with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.

Laundrie returned to the pair’s North Port, Florida, home earlier this month without Petito and is refusing to talk to authorities. 

In June, the pair set out on a cross-country road trip in a white Ford transit campervan owned by Petito, and according to the North Point police, she maintained regular contact with her family members. That communication abruptly stopped around the end of August.

The couple left a hotel in Salt Lake City on Aug. 24 and were heading to Grand Teton National Park then eventually Yellowstone, according to Petito’s family. 

The last verbal conversation Petito’s mom, Nichole Schmidt, had with her daughter was on Aug. 25, when the couple was apparently in Grand Teton. 

Schmidt received a text from Petito’s phone on Aug. 27 and another one on Aug. 30 saying that she was in Yosemite National Park, and had no cell service to talk,

Laundrie returned home to North Port, where the couple’s trip began, on Sept. 1 with Petito’s white van, but without Petito. 

Schmidt does not believe the final texts were from her daughter due to the short timeline. Yosemite is 800 miles from where Petito was last seen in Grand Teton a few days earlier, and 2700 miles from North Port Florida where Laundrie arrived two days later, which is about a 40-hour trip. 

The couple had been stopped on August 12th by police after they had a physical altercation in which Petito was the aggressor outside of a Moab grocery store, which happened to be the workplace of a Kylen Shulte who was shot and killed 6 days later in a Moab area campground with her partner Crystal Turner.

Authorities haven’t pointed to any other connection between the two cases, but aren’t ruling out that they may be related.

Petito is White, about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 110 pounds, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and several tattoos, including one on her finger and one on her forearm that reads, “Let it be.” You can call 1-800-CALLFBI if you have any information.

Hershey Show Breaks Records

The “world’s largest RV show” wraps this weekend in Hershey, Pennsylvania with recording breaking attendance (are they the largest for real? Who knows).

Last year’s show was canceled due to Covid, and some manufacturers and dealers pulled out of this year show due to low RV inventories and record numbers of orders, but still over 1200 RVs were on display in the Giant Center parking lot, with 2022 models being shown for the first time from many of the biggest brands

Hershey is going off without a hitch, and it’s a good thing because the industry’s “Open House” that takes place in Elkhart each year to show off new models to dealers was just canceled for the second year in a row, citing concerns over employees and the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus. 

July Retail Registration Down

Sales of new RVs were down 25% in July over last year, according to Statistical Surveys, Inc. But don’t think the market is totally cooling off yet.

The 54,000 RVs sold in July represent the second-best July on record, after 2020. Both June and July were down over last year, after 12 straight months of record sales.

Class A RVs dropped nearly 40%, Class Cs 35%, and Travel trailers dropped 27%. Fifth wheels and Class B campervans held pretty close to steady over last July. 

Camping World Building a Carvana for RVs

Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis has revealed the motivation behind his attempt to plant a Camping World flag in all of the lower 48 states – dealership licenses in every state will allow Camping World to sell RVs online from anywhere and ship to anywhere in the US – well except Hawaii and Alaska. 

It’s called “Highways,” which happens to be the name Camping World’s catalog and of a Good Sam magazine Camping World discontinued in 2014.

Similar to Carvana, the entire process, from securing a loan to signing the paperwork will be online, and the RVs will be delivered directly to your door or to a campground.

Lemonis shared the news of Highways at an investor conference where he said the company is knocking on the door of $1 Billion dollars in annual revenue.

He also mentioned that Camping World is adding 350 service bays across the country, bragging that those bays will bring in 100 million dollars at more than a 70% profit margin. We’re paying way too much for service and techs aren’t getting nearly their fair share.

Two California RV parks fined $750,000

According to KGTV San Diego, two sister RV resorts operated by Michael and Jacob Gelfand on the city’s Mission Bay, have been fined $750,000 for closing off public beaches and passing them off as a private amenity…since 1967. 

The lease with the city required free public parking and beach access to be available, but people have been kept out by threatening signage and security guards for over 50 years.

As a part of the settlement, the Campland and Mission Bay RV Resorts will provide free camping for underprivileged kids, and install new public toilets and electric vehicle chargers, while removing dozens of signs.

Outdoorsy May Go Public:

RV Rental marketplace Outdoorsy has experienced exponential growth over the past couple of years, and according to a report in Bloomberg, is now considering an IPO. The Austin, Texas-based startup is working with Goldman Sachs on a potential public offering. 

CEO Jeff Cavins told me that he thought the company was about to close its doors last March, as he laid off much of the staff. Then the outdoor travel boom hit, and he hired everyone back and then some. 

Now, Outdoorsy may be valued at over $1 billion. 

Dometic Purchases Igloo

Dometic, which probably makes something on your RV, from furnaces to air conditioners to fridges and awnings – has acquired the Igloo cooler brand.

Igloo is based out of Katy, Texas and has 1100 employees building American-made products.

Dometic is a much bigger company than you might think, providing outdoor and travel products to all sorts of markets like boating and patios. They’ve also acquired a barbecue maker Cadac, their 7th acquisition this year.

Margaritaville RV Resorts

After a successful launch of their Pigeon Forge, Tennessee location this summer, the Jimmy Buffet inspired Margaritaville hospitality brand has announced that it will launch an entire chain of RV resorts.

Beginning with their second in Auburndale, Florida in early 2022, a rebrand of the Cabana Club resort, which will feature a tiki bar, an entertainment stage, arcade, mini-golf course and 175 RV sites, a giant pool, and more. No word on where the other locations are planned for, but the company says several are on their way.  

Fifth Wheel in Drive-Thru

Finally, there are a lot of dumb things you can do while towing a trailer, but taking a fifth wheel through a drive thru is one of the dumbest. Check out this video of a man forcing his fifth wheel through a Dairy Queen drive thru. As it gets caught on the corner of the building, instead of backing up, he gives it the gas and lets the trailer rip down the entire side of the building. 

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