Every year, Practical Caravan’s Owner Satisfaction Awards celebrates the best new and used caravans for sale in the UK, and supplying dealers.

In fact, voting is already open for our 2019 survey! Just click here to have your say.

But back to 2018 and one of our winners!

Paul Hopkins, director of Dorset-based Blackmore Vale Leisure, reveals what it takes to top our Owner Satisfaction Awards 2018 and become the best supplying dealer of new caravans.

Congratulations – you must have been chuffed at the news

It was amazing and we’re all ecstatic about winning the award.

It was also very humbling that all of the customers we’ve dealt with have rated our service so highly.

How long has the dealership been established?

Blackmore Vale Leisure started in 1967, when my grandparents bought the business.

There’s always been a caravan site here – my grandfather used to sell a few vans – but it’s grown and grown over the years.

All elements of our business are run by different family members – my uncle looks after the petrol station and car sales, and my cousin takes care of the gym.

What is the secret formula at Blackmore Vale Leisure?

We’ve always been particular about customer service and we haven’t wanted to grow too fast.

Some customers have been back to us seven or eight times over the years, spanning a couple of decades, so it’s good to have that sort of loyalty.

We’ve also tried to evolve, trying out different caravan brands.

Over the past few years we’ve been happy to have the [email protected] franchise – it brings in a new clientele.

Which other franchises do you offer at your dealership?

We sell new caravans by Lunar, Venus and Knaus.

Thanks to Lunar’s Ariva, Venus and [email protected], we’ve become known for specialising in small, lightweight caravans.

Some people come to our dealership to look at a [email protected], but then decide they want something more conventional, so we’ll point them towards an Ariva or a Venus.

When we took on Venus, my personal opinion was that it was the best lightweight van on the UK market, so it made sense to stock other models from the Lunar portfolio.

We also tend to sell a lot of used caravans – if someone wants a new van, we can get it; but if they want something pre-owned, we can accommodate that as well.

What kind of servicing operation do you offer your customers?

We’re about to have another ramp installed in our workshop, which will be good for the business.

But we’re realistic and accept we can only do a limited amount of servicing, because we want to look at our customers first – people who have bought vans from us.

Ideally, we’d have more workshop bays and more servicing staff, but we prefer to focus on quality.

Everyone who works here pulls the same way – we know what we want to do.

If the customer’s happy, we’re happy, and we want to keep on operating like that.

It’s not just about making a sale. We’re very particular about every aspect of the process.

You also have on-site pitches

Yes, we have six or seven all-weather pitches, plus a couple more all-weather pitches that are reserved to demonstrate sales vans.

First-time buyers can stay for a couple of nights before they go off on their own, to get used to the caravan’s equipment, and people who’ve bought numerous times can leave after a brief stay with the peace of mind that everything’s working properly.

You also offer a ‘try before you buy’ initiative at a local airstrip

Yes, this is a new development.

Offering a weekend stay in a caravan should encourage people who’ve not considered the pastime before to see what it’s all about.

They don’t have to go through the expense of buying a caravan and finding it wasn’t for them.

If they make a purchase, we refund the cost of the ‘try before you buy’ – it’s a way of reassuring potential buyers before they take the plunge.