Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Business

Tampa RV dealership sees opportunity in six-figure trailers for horses — and their owners

TAMPA — Walking down a road in the Florida State Fairgrounds, Glen Soper points out two parking lots: one with rows and rows of RVs and another scattered with horse trailers.

Hundreds of people have driven here with their horses to compete in the Florida Gold Coast Quarter Horse Circuit, and many of them came separately — horses in their trailers, people in their motor homes.

Soper and the RV dealership Lazydays, where he is sales manager, think they'd like to travel closer together. They see a chance to tap into the big money in the equine industry, betting that people will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on trailers that will let them sleep close to their horses.

But step inside, and these are hardly spartan digs.

Touring a top-of-the-line model, Soper shows off a trailer with an electric fireplace, a shower with a sliding glass door and enough room for a king bed. There's a leather sofa, a TV and space up top for a satellite dish. But it doesn't have everything, Soper said: "No bidet."

It's nice enough that the manufacturer, Featherlite, boasts on its website that the "living quarters may make your horse wish it walked on two legs."

Walk through a door in the bathroom, and in the back, there's space for three horses, a generator and a hay loft.

"The latest and greatest," Soper said, pointing to the strip of LEDs lighting the trailer.

The list price: $113,794.

In the big-money world of raising and training horses, though, it doesn't seem like quite so much.

In 2014, the average Florida-bred weanling — a horse only a few months old — auctioned for $22,558, according to the Jockey Club, which tracks the thoroughbred industry. A 2-year-old horse sold on average for $37,951.

Even routine expenses can pile up. Buying hay to feed one horse can cost hundreds of dollars a month, Soper said. Entering last week's show in Tampa cost $599 a horse, and many competitors planned to enter their horses in another show in Venice. Many horses will spend far more time on the road than they do at their home stables.

The average horse in Florida costs its owner more than $13,000 a year in feed, transportation and other expenses, according to the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association. Keeping a horse in shape to race can cost even more, often over $25,000.

Soper, who boards horses at a ranch in Riverview, had seen the amount of money swirling in the equine industry firsthand, so he pitched the idea of selling trailers to Lazydays. The dealership inked a deal with the trailer manufacturer Featherlite last summer, and now, it has ambitions of becoming one of the industry's top sellers, he said.

Lazydays, founded in 1976, already has a big business selling RVs. Its store in Seffner is spread across 126 acres, and Soper said he has a staff of more than 100 salespeople. The company says its location here is the largest RV dealership in America.

"In our business, we're No. 1 in everything, and we are expected to be No. 1 in the horse industry someday," Soper said.

The dealership's decision to get into the horse business comes as the industry is growing in Florida, said Tammy Gantt, director of membership services at the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association.

The number of foals being bred here is growing, and the state is North America's second-largest breeding area, behind Kentucky, Gantt said. The association's membership is on the rise, especially in central and north Florida, where horse owners have better luck finding big tracts of land.

Purses for horse races in Florida swelled to more than $100 million in 2014, up 9 percent in a year and 38 percent since the depths of the recession, according to the Jockey Club.

And nationwide, luxury spending is on the rise. The market research firm Euromonitor expected spending on luxury goods to rise to $79.3 billion in 2015, a 26 percent rise in five years, suggesting that Americans are willing to shell out for high-end products.

Soper said Lazydays has already sold "quite a few" horse trailers, and he expects its horse business to keep growing. Walking by the rows of motor homes at the fairgrounds, he says the opportunity is clear.

"This is what it's all about," Soper said. "We're in the RV industry, so why would we not want to be in the horse industry?"

Contact Thad Moore at [email protected] or (813) 226-3434. Follow @thadmoore.

 
Comments
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 6 hours ago
St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg-based contract electronics company Jabil announced Wednesday it has expanded in Israel by opening an Optics Technology Innovation Center.The 6,560-square-foot complex is in Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city. "Our Optics Innovation Cen...
Updated: 8 hours ago
New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

OPEN NOW: BAHAMA BUCK’SFeel a shiver? Just in time for Florida’s sultry summer, Bahama Buck’s opened this week in Trinity with an avalanche of sno. The 2,346-square-foot island-inspired shop opened at 8815 Mitchell Blvd. with more than 91 flavors of ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lee Roy Selmon's original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon's original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s, the restaurant that paid homage to the community icon who rose to fame as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and grew to become a popular civic leader, will shutter the doors of its original location on Tampa’s Boy Scout Boulevard in...
Updated: 9 hours ago
At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

TAMPA — The name of the new Bay 3 co-working space at the Armature Works goes back to World War I, when the red-brick warehouse overlooking the Hillsborough River was the maintenance barn for Tampa Electric’s streetcar system.As the name suggests, it...
Published: 05/23/18
Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Associated PressPHILADELPHIA — Comcast may make an offer for Twenty-First Century Fox, potentially putting it in a head-to-head bidding war with Disney. Comcast Corp. on Wednesday did not provide specific details on a bid, other than to say that it w...
Published: 05/23/18
Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

ORLANDO — The popular breakfast and brunch chain First Watch will be opening a new restaurant in Orlando that will add cocktails, beer and wine to the menu. The new concept restaurant, set to open on Memorial Day at 1448 N Alafaya Trail, will be 1,00...
Published: 05/23/18
Humana hiring 100 for phone sales, Medicare enrollment assistance

Humana hiring 100 for phone sales, Medicare enrollment assistance

Kentucky-based health care provider Humana is hiring 100 phone sales employees in Tampa Bay. The new hires will field sales calls and offer enrollment assistance for Humana’s Medicare plans and other products.The positions, which are being added to h...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

ST. PETERSBURG — Ford’s Garage, a car junkie’s haven, has proven to be popular eatery across the state.Now it has a chance to drive customers to its seats in St. Petersburg. The restaurant opens its ninth location downtown Wednesday at 200 First Ave....
Published: 05/23/18
Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target is renovating more than 1,000 stores by the end of 2020, including two SuperTarget locations in New Tampa and Clearwater.The Clearwater store’s makeover — which the corporation calls ‘‘reimagining" — just wrapped up, according to Target spoke...
Published: 05/23/18