Niall HamptonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Caravans and dealers’ written by Niall Hampton
Southern retailer Swindon Caravans Group is in the process of making major investments in its facilities.
The Bailey, Lunar, Swift and Venus dealer runs three dealerships, in Wiltshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, and has doubled its order for special-edition vans made by Swift, after selling out the inaugural run last season.
These are exciting times for the family-owned dealer group, which scooped a prize at Practical Caravan’s own Owner Satisfaction Awards 2017, for the best-rated supplying dealer of used caravans for sale.
Four new workshop bays have recently been added at the main Swindon depot, making 14 in total, and this month, work starts at the group’s Oxford site to update the caravan servicing facilities.
This comes three years after the Reading branch’s workshops were upgraded, so the group’s customers will feel the benefits right across the board.
New entrants to the market
“We saw a huge increase in business, particularly since the EU referendum, and we’re still noticing it,” says General Manager Tom Collister.
“We’ve also seen some new entrants to the market. Alongside our traditional customer base, there’s been an increase in families – and young couples, perhaps thinking of having a family in the future but wanting to get into caravanning now,” he adds.
This latter type of customer is well catered for at Swindon Caravans Group, with all sites carrying a good inventory of used caravans for sale.
“Should they get on well with one they’ll come back two years later and improve the specification by buying another used van, or even trade up to a new one,” Tom tells us.
A key factor in the group’s new vans sales success is its dealer special editions. After careful consideration, Swindon Caravans Group decided to jump on board for the 2017 season, with a range based on Sprite.
They’ve been so well received, the dealer group has upped the order for 2018 and, so far, sales are continuing to look strong.
Buyers get an upgraded specification, including a contemporary soft furnishings scheme, pleated window blinds, a 100W solar panel, Al-Ko’s ATC anti-snaking system, alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a microwave oven and an external barbecue point.
Six models are available, including three with fixed beds, and two family-friendly six-berths.
“We deliberated for quite a long time over making the move to dealer specials, because ordering that number of caravans up front is a big commitment,” explains Tom.
“But we sold out of them halfway through last season. We obviously got the fabric and upholstery choices correct – we’ve had good feedback about that all year round, so we kept it the same for this year.”
Swindon Caravans Group’s Swift Vogue range is available at all three sites, where customers will find a range of facilities, including dedicated after-sales departments and accessory stores, with a dedicated awnings showroom located at Swindon.
Customer care is key
Scoring a very respectable 89.1% in our Owner Satisfaction Awards 2017 suggests that Swindon Caravans Group has got the customer service recipe right, but Tom cautions against resting on their laurels.
“We probably still have some work to do, but as you can see from the awards, we are doing well,” he says.
“You have to be proactive – we want to keep providing weekly updates to customers about how any servicing and repair work is progressing.”
The dealer group enjoys good relationships with manufacturers and parts suppliers, and even has input into caravan design.
“I’d like to think we’re quite influential in that area, particularly with Bailey and Lunar,” Tom says.
Dealership staff work hard to put buyers at ease – there’s no hard sell involved.
“It’s important to give each customer time to look at the product and make a decision. Our team has plenty of experience in this industry, so we can draw on that to help our customers.”