Boosted by more people heading into the great outdoors during the pandemic, Winnebago Industries started its new fiscal year strong.

The Forest City-based outdoor lifestyle manufacturer reports first-quarter net income of $57.4 million, an increase of over 300% when compared to $14.1 million in the prior year quarter. Winnebago president and CEO Michael Happe says the company had a fantastic first quarter and credited the company’s employees for continued hard work through the pandemic.

“We gained RV market share, grew our consolidated top line by approximately 35%, expanded gross margins 390 basis points, and grew operating income 256%,” Happe says. “None of this would have been possible without the exceptional work of our world-class Winnebago Industries team.”

Happe says the Winnebago, Grand Design RV, Newmar luxury RV and Chris-Craft boat brands continue to experience solid business as people turn to recreational opportunities during the pandemic.  “On our Fiscal 2020 4th Quarter call, we spoke about how the pandemic spurred consumers to combine the imperative of the safety of their families with their strong desire to be immersed in the experiences they could control,” Happe says. “Consequently, they continue to flock to the outdoor recreation lifestyle our products offer.” He adds, “The expanding appeal of the outdoor lifestyle has contributed greatly to the momentum we have established in recent quarters and will be essential to our success in 2021.”

Happe says a survey the company commissioned in November illustrated how widespread the draw of the outdoor lifestyle has been in the past year.  “In calendar 2020, 68% of American consumers under the age of 55 participated in an outdoor activity such as camping, boating, hiking at a location away from their home, or visiting a state or national park,” Happe says. “Overall, 60% of the U.S. population pursued an outdoor activity in 2020.”

He notes for 31% of those consumers, it was their first time participating in an outdoor activity. Winnebago posted revenue of $793.1 million for the first quarter, an increase of 35% compared to the Fiscal Year 2020 period.

(By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)