Winnebago CEO: Pent-up demand will sustain Covid boom in RV sales

Winnebago CEO Michael Happe told CNBC on Friday he expects the coronavirus pandemic-inspired surge in recreational vehicle sales to last into next year.

The comments came after the Forest City, Iowa-based company reported strong quarterly results that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Investors cheered the quarter Friday, with shares of Winnebago closing higher by more than 5%.

Winnebago reported adjusted per-share earnings of $1.69, beating estimates of $1.01, according to FactSet. It also represented a 131.5% increase from the same quarter a year ago. Revenues for the quarter that ended Nov. 28 came in at $793.1 million, up 34.8% year over year and topping analyst forecasts of $753 million.

"We were really pleased, obviously, with the way the consumers flocked to the outdoors in 2020 as they tried to manage through the pandemic's impact on their lives, and we believe you'll see a similar behavior trend in 2021," Happe said on "Closing Bell."

"There is a great deal of pent-up demand, we believe, by consumers who were perhaps interested in the space and the category earlier this year and maybe didn't pull the trigger but are still very excited to explore a way to get into RVing and boating in 2021," the executive added.

Winnebago Industries motor homes on display at Winnebago Motor Homes in Rockford, Illinois.Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As the coronavirus pandemic rendered social distancing necessary, many outdoor recreational activities such as boating, biking and traveling by RV saw a growth in popularity. Happe is not alone in his optimism that Americans' newfound interest in the outdoors will carry over into next year.

Brunswick CEO David Foulkes told CNBC earlier this month, "We have incredible momentum in the [boating] industry now. We've attracted in a new demographic. … I think that provides us great momentum, not just next year but into future years."

Winnebago, which sells RVs and boats, has observed a similar shift in buyers, according to Happe. "Our consumers are getting younger. They are becoming more diverse in terms of background and profile, and they're using the products in many different ways," he said. "The work-from-anywhere trend is quite strong right now, and a lot of our new consumers are seeing these products as a way to work from the road or a beautiful campground somewhere here in America."

Shares of Winnebago are up 18% so far this year and more than 260% since their March 19 virus-era low.

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