Tell us about your role
I’m Swift’s Group Commercial Director, which sounds very grand but is really sales and marketing director for the firm.
Swift is unique, in that we’re the only UK manufacturer that operates in all three streams: caravans, motorhomes and holiday homes.
I oversee a sales manager in each of those areas and a sales team below them, along with a head of marketing and a full marketing team.
How long have you been with the company?
I’ve been with Swift for nearly 14 years and prior to that, was chief executive of Brownhills, which at the time was Europe’s largest motorhome retailer.
How did you get into the leisure vehicle industry?
I spent a great part of my career in the automotive industry and was managing director of the Reg Vardy car group.
I then ran Brownhills for three years, before it was sold. Following that, Peter Smith, the chairman of Swift, asked if I’d like to join the company. He didn’t have any succession planned and wanted to build a management team to buy the business. And that’s what happened – seven of us bought the business from Peter about seven years ago.
Is Swift Group the biggest manufacturer in the UK?
In a normal year we will turn over £260-£270 million – we have about 38% of the caravan market, 23% of the motorhome market and a 20% share of the holiday home market. We’re the biggest in caravans and joint first in motorhomes.
What memories do you have of caravan trips as a child?
Dad was adventurous so we used to do a lot of European camping trips and I remember a road trip to Lido-di-Jesolo in the north of Italy. We enjoyed several holidays in Newquay, in Cornwall, where we stayed in statics – traditional British seaside holidays with all of the family.
What’s been your best trip?
Last year, with my wife and our twin boys, I spent two weeks touring the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland. Beautiful scenery, great food and pubs, amazing beaches – the kids loved it. We took a Kon Tiki 675 motorhome, which performed incredibly well in extreme terrain. There were so many people out there touring.
Where will you go next?
We’ve just opened a new hire centre in Scotland, and I’d like to take out one of our hire units around the North Coast 500 in Scotland. I think that would be another great trip for the kids.
What’s your brand’s USP?
We’ve invested more than £30 million in factory facilities and machines, so the technology we use is cutting edge. We spend a lot of time and effort getting the quality of the products as good as possible. Our strapline is ‘quality with style’.
What are the advantages of being market leader?
When you’re leading a race the danger is you spend all your time looking over your shoulder.
We try to push ourselves and our boundaries with innovative new products. We didn’t set out to be the biggest, but we wanted to be the best – a by-product of that is you become the biggest.
New launches coming up?
We’ve got new developments in motorhomes and caravans, but we will need to see what impact Covid-19 has on timings.
It’s important for us that our dealers get through this and we help them sell the products they currently have in. Next season is going to be a year of consolidation.
Where do you see the industry going?
Cars’ weight is going down and we need to be innovative in the materials we use, to reduce the weight of caravans. Electrification will also create some challenges.
The world’s changing because of Covid-19 and people will look to holiday more in the UK. If we can all get through this, there’s a big opportunity for staycations.
What’s your top tip for people buying a new ‘van?
Get your layout right – do your research online, use our amazing dealership network and if possible, try before you buy.
What’s on your playlist?
I’m a bit of an old rocker, so anything like U2, Simple Minds, the Stones and the Beatles.
Favourite meal on tour?
We love to barbecue! Ireland was amazing for shellfish and my favourite is spaghetti with clams.
Tell us something about you that might surprise people
I served as a police officer for three or four years before leaving the service to go to university.
When you're leading a race the danger is you spend all your time looking over your shoulder. We try to push ourselves and our boundaries