Tuesday, April 01, 2008

RV Dealer Doing Well Despite Slow Economy

OWATONNA, MINN - In 2003, Mike Noble accepted a buyout offer from his partner and co-founder of a thriving Owatonna lighting design and electrical contracting firm.

Noble, who exhibits all the symptoms of a serial entrepreneur, had a logical explanation for the decision: "The business was long past the start-up phase and the challenge just wasn't there anymore."

So he spent three years searching, studying and pondering, and finally found a new challenge.

It was a doozy.

In April 2006, with gasoline prices heading skyward and the economy tilting in the other direction, he opened Noble RV Inc. to sell the hulking travel trailers, fifth-wheelers and motorized recreational vehicles (RVs) that are synonymous with guzzled gas.

Can you say "counterintuitive?"

Yet, Noble has had no reason to regret his choice -- so far. When he started, his first-year goal was to sell at least 120 units in the remaining nine months of 2006. He wound up peddling 187 of them for a first-year gross of $4.2 million.

Then, as the economy headed south for the winter, he sold 323 units in 2007, for a total gross of $8.8 million.

And in the first two months of 2008, he moved 37 units for $1 million, up 39 percent from the same period a year earlier, when he sold 25 units for $718,000. Nearly half of those 2008 sales came at the Minneapolis/St. Paul RV, Vacation and Camping Show, where he sold all 17 units he brought for display.
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