On March 20, Airstream, the manufacturer of aluminum camping trailers and RVs, was forced to shut down during the initial stages of safer-at-home restrictions created by the coronavirus.
According to a recent interview with Business Insider, this was about six months after opening a 725,000-square-foot factory expansion, and in the face of a projected 70% year-over-year drop in retail sales.
The company resumed manufacturing on May 4, and was welcomed back by surging demand that brought projections to a more manageable 30% sales decrease. However, the company proceeded to set an all-time monthly sales record in May, which translated to a 45% increase in total sales over 2019. The following month, sales were up 100% year-over-year.
The reasons for the increased popularity are two-fold.
First, there’s the obvious safety and peace-of-mind benefits that come from vacationing via trailer, as opposed to a plane or hotel, right now. Additionally, Airstream’s smaller units don’t demand a large vehicle to tow them, so that smaller SUV works just fine.
Second, the company is redesigning some of the vehicle’s interiors to accommodate the new normal of work-from-home and home-schooling dynamics. This includes dedicated workspaces that can be stowed after use, and the integration of WiFi and a more powerful antenna.
Surging COVID numbers and the updated designs have produced a demand for the handmade trailers that Airstream has not been able to match, despite the expanded production space. And even as the company ramps up hiring, the training process for new employees can take months.
Many businesses can point to very specific turning points in their company history – with the outcomes that emanated from these events very clearly marked as either struggles or successes. For Jackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream, the ongoing pandemic will be remembered for a bit of both.