My RV customers are gearing up for a record year. But what is blowing my mind is that it isn’t the baby boomers fueling this explosion – it’s the millennials. Yes, the baby boomers are still out there buying motor homes. But they account for less than 13 percent of all units sold. The vast majority of RV units sold are trailers, and millennials in their 20s and 30s are really getting out there to connect with nature.

According to USA Today, manufacturers expect to ship 446,000 RVs in 2017, an increase of 3.6 percent. In fact, 2017 is shaping up to be a record year for the RV industry. This forecast would be a new record, with sales being the highest since RV Industry Sales Association started tracking the numbers in 1979.

Low gas prices, favorable interest rates and a desire to reconnect with nature are the factors driving the millennials to buy trailers. The trailers are also more affordable than motor homes, and they don’t represent a total lifestyle change, which is often the case for boomers who sell or leave their homes behind and travel in their motor home in their retirement years. With millennials, it’s more of a weekend thing.

This explosion in the RV industry is resulting in a corresponding explosion in the sale of RV doors and windows. These products represent a set of unique product characteristics for the companies involved in their design and manufacture. Sales in the RV window industry are not centered around energy efficiency. Doors and windows for RVs are designed around two factors — robustness and low cost. In fact, insulating glass and low-E glass are add-on features that only a small percentage of buyers opt for. This represents a future growth area for RV door and window manufacturers if they can convince buyers of the benefits of insulating glass, such as reduced heat and sound transfer.

There has also been a boost in the economy of the towns where these RV-related businesses are centered. Indeed, Elkhart County, the place in Indiana with the highest unemployment rate during the worst days of the recession now enjoys the state’s lowest unemployment rate. The last time I checked (in February) it was at 3.3 percent, the lowest among Indiana’s 92 counties. It is also why Elkhart County was particularly concerned about the Immigrants Day Protest that upset work schedules earlier in the year. Many of the RV-related manufacturers employ a fair percentage of workers who were born outside of the United States.

One thing is clear. The boomers who might be working as senior management in not only RV and RV-related businesses but also door and window companies need to be aware of the key buying factors that define purchasing habits of the millennials. Just as they are buying trailers for the weekend, many are still renting and/or living at home with their parents. As they move forward in life, will they continue to live in rental communities or will they transition to single-family homes?  If so, what characteristics will define the size, layout and the types of door and window products that go into these rental complexes and/or homes?

It sure looks like investing in market research is likely to pay off for door and window companies who can use the knowledge gained to redefine the product design features of the products they bring to market.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *