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Bargains promised for boat and RV show at Cal Expo

Source: The Sacramento Bee
Publish Date: Friday, February 13, 2009
Summary: The good news for buyers is that RV and boat sellers are offering rebates and discounts of up to 40 percent on many products. Show participants are emphasizing that and thinking positively on other levels.

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Mark Glover

Feb. 13, 2009 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex) -- The 56th annual Sacramento Sports, Boat and RV Show kicks off its four-day run today at Cal Expo, showcasing the wares of two industries desperately seeking a silver lining amid the economic gloom.

The event is part of an annual nationwide outdoor recreation show blitz that anticipates the arrival of spring and months of outdoor activities. This year's attendees will see hundreds of recreational vehicles, powerboats, fishing boats, personal watercraft, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. But just how many will be buying is unknown.

Over the next four days, RV and boat dealers at Cal Expo will show discounted merchandise in an effort to give a shot in the arm to their respective industries, which have been hit hard by the recession.

According to the Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, shipments of RVs to U.S. dealers last year totaled 237,000, a nearly 33 percent decline from 353,000 in 2007 and down 39.3 percent from 390,500 in 2006, which was the highest total since 1977.

Richard Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, has projected 2009 shipments at 186,800, which would be the lowest total since 1991.

The boating industry has likewise suffered. The Chicago-based National Marine Manufacturers Association said it's still compiling 2008 statistics, but it expects powerboat sales alone will be off 28 percent from a 2007 total of about 300,000.

NMMA said new-boat and boating-accessory sales in California fell 32 percent in 2007 -- $820 million compared with $1.2 billion in 2006 -- and 2008 totals are likewise expected to drop by double digits.

The sinking economy has resulted in RV and boat dealership closings locally and nationwide. And the hard times are evident at the Cal Expo show -- with about 50 dealers on-site this year, compared with about 80 last year.

Yet show manager Clifford Bresee said there is nearly as much product on the grounds as last year, "because someone always comes in to take the place" of a closed or nonparticipating store.

The good news for buyers is that RV and boat sellers are offering rebates and discounts of up to 40 percent on many products. Show participants are emphasizing that and thinking positively on other levels.

"Customers who have managed their finances are able to take advantage of the opportunities that are available," Bresee said.

Bresee said RV dealers have actually seen an uptick in buyers since Jan. 1, following four miserable months. Local RV dealers said loosening credit, combined with deep discounts, is gradually making a difference -- a message they plan to emphasize at Cal Expo.

"We won't see deals like this ever again," said Ronnie Raddigan, general manager of Sacramento's Happy Daze RV.

Boat dealers at Cal Expo also are talking up aggressive discounts, rebates and one other factor: Boats manufactured after Jan. 1 must have engines in compliance with California Air Resources Board emissions standards. Installing catalytic converters and other systems can add several thousand dollars to the cost of a boat. But boat engines manufactured before Jan. 1 are exempt.

Show officials said 24-foot to 34-foot boats built in 2008 will cost $2,000 to $6,000 less than boats built this year, while larger boats will cost up to $8,000 less.

Gene Moynier, manager of Brothers Boats in Folsom, said "there are rebate programs from the manufacturers on all the current inventory that's in the stores at this point in time. It's a lot more aggressive than it has been in past years."

He pointed to comparatively modest 20-foot boats with rebates of up to $2,000.

Moynier believes 2009 will be another year of weathering the storm, with things hopefully improving in 2010.

"I think 2009 is still going to be troublesome," he said. "I'm trying not to be negative, but realistic. I think we'll waddle along in 2009, sort of bumping along the bottom with maybe even a little bit of improvement.

"In 2010, I think we'll start to see a slow movement in the other direction."


Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

Newstex ID: KRTB-0178-31761186

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