THERE WERE REASONS to be cheerful at last week’s Boat & Caravan 2011 show at the NEC, Birmingham. Organisers reported a four per cent increase in visitor numbers and some of the leading caravan manufacturers saw their sales rise.


And there was more good news for the event as organisers Ocean Media Group announced a three-year deal with the Camping and Caravanning Club as exclusive partner, running until 2014. The event will take place at the NEC for the next two years, the organisers added.


Increased footfall

Footfall to the show increased substantially at the end of last week, when the Outdoor Leisure Show launched on 25 February. Visitors to Boat & Caravan got free admission to the Outdoor Leisure Show, so their admission price offered a recession-friendly two shows for the price of one. A total of 86,988 people visited the event over the six days it was open.


Show Director Andy Gibb said: “I’m absolutely delighted with how things went at the show – it’s been a great week. The Outdoor Leisure Show has made a big difference. Launching any show is extremely nerve-wracking but the outcome has exceeded my expectations. And it drives a new audience to Boat & Caravan.”


Not just window shopping 

[tl:gallery size=180×120]When it came to the latest caravans on show, many visitors converted their browsing into buying. Bailey recorded a five per cent growth in sales value year-on-year when compared to 2010’s event, notching up £7m in orders.


Lunar had a good show too, achieving £3.2m in retail sales, with the Quasar range driving 42 per cent of the total figure. Swift Group reported a “strong sales pattern”, adding that its Challenger, Eccles, Elite and Conqueror ranges performed well, as well as the entry-level Sprite models.


Good sales for compact vans

We’ve yet to see any official statements about Boat & Caravan from Elddis or Coachman, but Elddis dealers at the show reported good sales of the firm’s Xplore 302 and 304 compact caravans. Salespeople at niche manufacturer Vanmaster also recorded good business on its stand.


Simon Howard from Bailey was “very encouraged” by the Bristol marque’s performance at the show. “Equally pleasing was the split of sales across the portfolio as we look to bring better balance to our product line up,” he said.


“We are now far less dependent on Unicorn sales as we were at the October show – although it does remain our most in-demand range.” He revealed that Bailey’s most popular show sales were Unicorn (46 per cent) and Pegasus (31 per cent), followed by the new Orion (15 per cent) and Olympus (8 per cent).


Martin Henderson, Sales and Marketing Director for Lunar, said he was pleased with the Preston-based brand’s performance. “In anticipation of what we believed would be a challenging February show, the Lunar team and our retailers worked extremely hard to deliver this successful show result. 


“This show was also the Quasar 464 and Lexon 550’s first public appearance, so to see them have an immediate impact on sales is tremendous. With both our family and couples’ models continuing to be well received by our customers, we are incredibly encouraged as we head towards the new season.”


Next show in October

The next caravan show at the NEC will be the NCC show, which runs from 11-16 October. Practical Caravan will be there, of course – we’ll be hosting our prestigious Tourer of the Year awards there during the show.


Thanks to all our readers who called in on our stand during Boat & Caravan – it’s always good to hear your views.