RV Part Shop – serve the growing number of American RV owners and their unique needs
RV Part Shop Background Story
Like many entrepreneurs, Richard Gastmeier’s business journey began with a problem. In the early 2000s, Richard and his wife were involved in dog sports, travelling around Ontario, Canada with their border collies. Richard recalls his wife saying “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little van to travel around in.” Far from a little van, Richard sought out a different mode of transportation, a 38-foot-long RV and thus began the business journey of RV Part Shop.
While Richard spent 25 years of his successful career as an entrepreneur in the music industry, his new RV presented him with a new problem – sourcing parts. “I found what I had to do was order RV parts in the US and get the parts shipped to a US office address I operated at the time,” said Richard about the challenge, “Then I had to travel south over a hundred miles every couple of weeks across the border to pick up the RV accessories and parts I had ordered. It was not an ideal customer service situation, to say the least.”
With his already well-established entrepreneurial spirit, Richard set out to find a solution to a problem facing both himself and all RV owners across Canada, the inability to source RV parts. The challenge was to find a way to offer a range of RV parts, supplies and camping equipment at a competitive price for all Canadian RV and travel trailer owners.
Richard recalls that creating an online product catalog seemed like the obvious solution. Online purchases would allow customers, many of whom had no RV dealers close to them, the opportunity to order from home and have their RV necessities delivered directly to their doorstep. Plus, it would be much easier to display tens of thousands of RV and camper parts online compared to a brick-and-mortar storefront. In 2013, Richard launched RV Part Shop, with the intention of filling a gap in the Canadian RV market.
At the time, the now robust world of e-commerce was not fully developed, lacking advanced online tools and platforms, common in the present day. The RV aftermarket parts industry was still evolving to the virtual world, and it was a challenge to access high quality images, product descriptions other digital assets required for an online storefront. Without a doubt, it was not an easy or straightforward initiative to build an online RV parts store.
Despite the initial challenges, Richard launched the RV Part Shop website in 2013 with over 10,000 product offers. The original launch product offerings consisted primarily of:
– Truck accessories
– Hitches and towing products
As time progressed, the number of available products expanded rapidly. RV Part Shop continues to expand, with the number of available product offerings growing to over 100,000 between the RV Part Shop Canadian and American websites. Over 2.5 million products are not listed on the sites, but available through what is referred to as “special order.” “The enormous number of individual items we are able to get for customers would make the sites too hard to navigate had they all been listed,” explained Richard, “so we decided to only list the most popular products on-site and make the balance available by special order. That simply means our warehouses do not normally stock the product, it must come from the factory.”
Richard’s overall driving business strategy has been to provide access to parts and accessories for all RV owners across Canada, but like any successful entrepreneur, as time progressed, Richard saw an opportunity for a new market. As RV Part Shop grew, Richard learned that it would be beneficial to serve the growing number of American RV owners and their unique needs. In 2016, Richard launched RV Part Shop Canada and re-focused the original website to Americans, providing information specifically dedicated to U.S. RV owners, at a dedicated American RV Part Shop website.
In 2019, Richard expanded RV Part Shop to sell marine parts, boating accessories, camping gear and outdoor trip needs. Over the years, the sites have been ever evolving and expanding with the goal of making it easier and faster for consumers to navigate RV Part Shop and find the products and information they need.
RV Part Shop’s 10th Anniversary
As RV Part Shop celebrates the organization’s 10th anniversary in 2023, Richard continues to reflect upon what sets RV Part Shop apart from its competitors. With the increase of e-commerce businesses, including Amazon, Richard believes RV Part Shop’s exceptional customer service continues to set the business apart. “RV Part Shop strives for top-notch customer service,” Richard explains, “we strive to provide the best customer service and support, whether a customer is buying a $2 dollar of $2000 dollar part. If you take the time, customers will come back.”
Challenges and Opportunities
Presently, RV Part Shop is facing challenges related to overall market supply chain issues, managing discontinued products (some of which are only two to three years old), and struggling to source parts from manufacturers narrowing down their catalog offerings. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, RV Part Shop got a sharp increase in business. “We found that people were stuck at home with nothing to do but fix their RVs, so the first months of the pandemic were very busy,” Richard observed, “as time went on and there were restrictions on cross-border and other vacation options, we got even busier as people turned to the natural isolation of an outdoor RV vacation.” The boom in RV purchases, frequent usage and rentals contributed to a record year for the entire RV industry and success for RV Part Shop.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused problems for the industry and ongoing supply chain issues, more North Americans are RVing than ever before, encouraged to explore their own communities. The Canadian Recreational Vehicle Association (CRVA) reports that 1 in 6 Canadians have an RV of some kind. Canadian RV consumers are advocating for more campgrounds. “The more places there are to camp, the more camping nights are happening, hence more breakage is going to occur as people are using their RVs more, presenting an opportunity for us,” Richard explains. RV Part Shop has an opportunity from the broader market, older or first-time RVers, as the pandemic continues to present ongoing issues with travel and RV trips provide a local, safe and cost-effective alternative for retirees or family vacations.
When asked about advice to pass along to aspiring entrepreneurs, Richard chuckles and states “Never start a business when you don’t know how much work it is going to be.” Richard references the scope and technical nature of RV Part Shop products and the amount of work required to manage product inventory and automation. Advanced technical skills are required to provide excellent customer service to RV Part Shop clients, compared to other consumer goods. “The customer service conversations are in-depth to get something that works for our clients, it’s always different,” Richard explains. RV Part Shop has a ticketing system to monitor questions from consumers and provide their signature gold standard customer service.
RV Part Shop: Community & Educational Involvement
During RV Part Shop’s decade of operation, Richard has supported campers, food truck owners and even a local turtle rescue operation. RV Part Shop was able to provide RV bathtubs to house turtles and assist in the recuperation and relocation away from busy highway crossings, supporting Georgian Bay Turtle Hospital.
Even as a small, local business, Richard has been able support over 40 students with employment through co-op positions and project-based learning through the Riipen platform. RV Part Shop partnered with the Automotive Business School and Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario to provide opportunities for summer students, some leading to full-time employment with RV Part Shop. The Canadian federally funded Riipen program has given RV Part Shop the human resources to implement new business development tactics, such as content marketing, backlink outreach and public relations. Students have supported Richard in writing blog content, with featured articles such as “RV Facts, Stats and Emerging Trends” and “5 Tips for Financing Your Dream Camper.”
RV Part Shop: The Future
By identifying a need, applying effective and strategic e-commerce technologies to a niche market and implementing stellar customer service, Richard was able to build a successful business and meet a market need. RV Part Shops is fortunate for its loyal customers and looks toward the 2023 RV and camping season with optimism!
To learn more about RV Part Shop, please visit Canadian RV Part Shop or American RV Part Shop websites.
Richard G. Gastemeir
CEO and Owner, RV Part Shop
Phone: 877-607-4446 ext. 701
For inquires: https://rvpartshop.ca/contact-form
Public Relations Assistant, RV Part Shop
For inquires: https://rvpartshop.ca/contact-form