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Tiny lot, big sales

John Seelmeyer

When Dana Bailey took over Traveler’s RV Sales, he was so undercapitalized that FedEx wouldn’t serve the company.

Worse yet, Bailey’s son Scott wouldn’t join his father’s business because he didn’t see any money in it.

Eight years later, FedEx comes by nearly every day. Scott Bailey is the finance manager. And Dana Bailey is doing just fine with a business that posts annual sales of nearly $20 million.

Advertising relentlessly, refusing to keep slow-moving inventory on the lot and keeping constantly on the lookout for new sales venues, Bailey and his family-owned business sell nearly 700 travel trailers a year.

“We’re really good at selling units,” Bailey says. “We move stuff.”

They’re so good, in fact, that Traveler’s RV just opened a second location off U.S. 395 in Stead. That location, with nearly five acres of selling space and another two acres for storage, provides some badly needed space for the company.

Its flagship location at Glendale and Kietzke is a cramped one acre site that includes a sales lot along with warranty and service operations.

The tight quarters contributed to Bailey’s decision to focus the company exclusively on travel trailers everything from small units to big fifth-wheel rigs and stay out of the motorized RV business.

That decision may pay benefits, he says, as sales of motorized units are pinched by higher gas prices.

So far, sales of travel trailers have escaped the squeeze. Since the start of the year, Bailey says, his company has sold some 200 trailers, and it’s well on its way to setting a new annual sales record.

Already, the company ranks 17th among the 1,750 dealers of Keystone RV Co., the maker of the wildly popular Montana line of trailers.

The service and parts operation overseen by daughter Rande Greathouse continues to grow, too.

The parts operation, for instance, contributes about $550,000 a year to the company’s revenues. Traveler’s RV is the largest buyer of Interstate batteries in the region, Greathouse notes.

But it all starts with a sale.

“The name of the game is to keep your money flowing,” says Bailey.

He was the first trailer dealer in town to use television advertising. He was the first to conduct an off-site sale, a tradition that includes an annual January event at the Reno Livestock Events Center.

And Bailey continues to buy smart, looking for manufacturers who can help fill niches in his product offerings.

That’s a carryover from his earliest days at Traveler’s RV.

Stopping by to see a friend at the business one Friday afternoon in 1998, Bailey learned the business was on the brink of bankruptcy.

He ponied up $10,000 to take over the business and started scraping. Unable to afford much inventory, he handled trailers on consignment. He bought a handful of used trailers from private parties, used his experience to sell them quickly and bought a few more.

“We bought what we could and kept it going,” he recalls.

After a couple of years, Traveler’s RV Sales was sufficiently established that credit companies John Deere Credit Corp. initially, GE and Bombadier later on began to provide working capital.

With that, the company began taking on lines of new travel trailers.

The challenge, says Bailey’s wife, Sue, has been finding good employees to keep pace with the company’s growth. Traveler’s RV employs 43, including about 10 at the new facility at 71 Webb Circle at Stead.

Faced with the challenges of recruiting good help in areas ranging from sales to technician, Sue Bailey says the company pays a lot of attention to retention. Employees of the year, for instance, go to Hawaii for company-paid vacations.

And as they search for good help, the Baileys sometimes look no farther than the dinner table.

When visitors come into the dealership, the receptionist who greets them is Peg Bailey, the mother of the company’s president.


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