The weather may have been dreary with rain and strong winds and the economic outlook poor but every company we spoke to at the Caravan Extravaganza show in Cottingham, and the show at the adjacent golf club was very upbeat about the future whilst accepting that for the next 12 months at least, things are going to be pretty tough.
Overall attendance during the public weekend was about the same as 2010, that is around 14,000 on the Saturday and 10,500 on the Sunday.
Several stand-holders we spoke to commented that they felt it had kept away the casual visitors whilst the serious ones were not put off. As a result, all the stands we talked to said that although they had reduced their targets compared with last year they had either met them or were at least satisfied with their results.
All the main static caravan and holiday lodge manufacturers had new models for 2012 proving that they had decided that sitting back and waiting for the recession to end wasn’t an option. How many of the new models will sell however, only time will tell. Among the new models which we will be reviewing over the next 12 months were Prestige’s Matrix (featured here) and Chichester twin units. We were particularly impressed by the bathroom in the Matrix and by the master bedroom and en suite in the Chichester.
Since it launched its first static caravans less than 10 years ago, the Swift group has continued to develop a great range of homes at prices well below those you would pay for many new cars. In a word, they are caravans aimed at the lower end of the mid-range market.
One of the best known manufacturers Willerby, launched a new static designed for the disabled caravanner. Named the Rio it is a single unit measuring 35ft x 12ft featuring wide passageways and lowered work surfaces, appliances etc. It also has an excellent washroom with disabled facilities. Another new model from the company was the Isis which will be available in three versions: a 33ft x 12ft and 35ft x 12 ft both two bedrooms – plus a pull out sofa bed in the lounge – and a 38ft x 12ft three bedroom which will also has the sofa bed in the lounge. But for our money, the Willerby piece de resistance was the company’s new Oyster Bay with its huge Belling gas cooker featuring a hob with eight burners and two ovens.
Carnaby Caravans had a centre lounge Melrose on display in which the two bedrooms are at either end of the home, whilst the 42ft x 13ft two bedroom Pemberton Brompton sported a kitchen/diner separated from the lounge by twin sliding doors. ABI offered its bargain static caravan, the Tebay Platinum two bedroom, in contrast to Wessex Homes whose Hideaway with its huge wet room would set you back an arm and a leg. Although not in the same price bracket as the Hideaway, the Pathfinder Forest Lodge certainly came with a host of features and appliances as standard, including a very nice breakfast bar and two stools, a dishwasher and a washing machine
Homeseeker had its Bronze standard Olympia and its gold standard Sofia homes on display. Both are two bedroom models, the Olympia sporting an island unit with a four burner hob, three full width drawers and a 10 bottle wine rack in its kitchen, whilst the Sofia had an en suite off the main bedroom to die for.
Time didn’t allow us to spend long at the other show at the golf club but what we couldn’t help noticing was the large increase in the number of homes on display. Over the years, the golf club show has basically been an overflow for the Lawns which has restricted space. This year, we came to the conclusion that the golf club was becoming a show in its own right with an increasing number of manufacturers including Omar – who had its 40ft x 14ft two bedroom Southwold on view – Delta, Stellar, Retreat, Atlas, and Victory to name just some. For the first time too, there were pods on display.
As we said at the beginning, the whole industry knows that there is a tough year ahead but from what we saw at the two shows, coupled with the comments of everyone we spoke to, we truly believe that it will be well placed to weather whatever the faltering economy throws at it.