The great British staycation getaway from the pandemic means that business is booming for a North Wales camper van conversion company.
Simple Camper Vans, based in Caernarfon, turns conventional vans and SUVs into mobile holiday homes and owner Tommy Chamings has seen demand increase by up to 400 per cent as lockdown has eased.
Tommy can turn over 20 different models into an adventure vehicle with the addition of an easy-to-fit fold-out kit that installs in minutes and is just as quick to take out.
The kit doubles as sleeping platform and a seating area with table and already the outdoor enthusiast and engineering graduate from Llandudno is planning to launch his first e-conversion later this year when the new all-electric Citroen Berlingo comes out.
The increase in demand – 12 months ago he was building 20 conversion kits a month, now it’s up to 80 and he has had to take on an extra staff member and added a second storage unit at the Lock Stock Self Storage park on Caernarfon’s Cibyn Industrial Estate.
He has also moved into the hire business with a brand new £43,000 Etrusco camper van and it is already booked up for most of the next three months.
Tommy said: “When lockdown happened last March I expected business to die down completely and at first it did but then it was quite the opposite – demand went into overdrive and our turnover doubled compared with the previous summer.
“I had been worried whether we’d survive because we seemed to fall through all the funding gaps but still had to pay rent and wages and our sales flatlined during spring when we would typically be very busy.
“But I felt that people wouldn’t be able to travel abroad once lockdown ended so I took a gamble and it paid off as I brought the website up to standard and invested heavily in building up stock.
“Our suppliers, Booker Timber in Ellesmere Port, and in Germany and Poland have been brilliant and by the end of lockdown it just went ballistic with sales right off the scale and it has carried on this year – we’ve been making hay while the sun shines.
“We have had to take on an extra storage unit with Lock Stock because we order in bulk now because of the complications and delays of Brexit which has been a real nightmare and cost us most of our European business which accounted for 20 per cent of sales.”
Simple Camper Vans provide conversion kits that start at £439 and aim to be simple, well-engineered, easy to install and can turn small vans and SUVs into campers.
The high-grade plywood comes from Ellesmere Port, the hinges that hold the kits together are machined in Germany and he’s currently expecting a massive consignment of cushions from Poland which will fill a 2,560-foot unit.
Lock Stock Site Manager Tony Jones, who worked in construction for 18 years, recognises quality when he sees it and he said: “You can see the quality of the materials Tommy uses and the finish and they really do offer a simple conversion.
“The kits he makes are quick to install and take down and they stow away flat and they offer different configurations as well.
“Having his storage units here is perfect for the business because there’s 24/7 access to the site so he can take deliveries at any time of the day or night and his workshop is just down the road – it’s ideal.”
Outdoor sports enthusiast Tommy built his business after converting his old Peugeot Partner car so he and his partner, Ania, could enjoy weekends away kite-surfing and climbing.
He uses 12mm birch plywood, second only to marine plywood in quality, metal hinges made by a German manufacturer for concert grand pianos and TIMco screws – because unlike cheaper screws, the heads are almost impossible to destroy – and absolutely no glue.
It adds up to removable conversions which can be easily fitted and just as easily folded down and stored compactly in the boot of a range of over 20 right or left-hand drive vehicles which include Citroens, Fiats, Peugeots, Renaults, Vauxhalls, Volkswagens and Skodas.
The kits are CNC machined with sleeping areas and pop-up tables, come with optional cushion sets and are spirit-level flat for a good night’s sleep.
Lock Stock, founded in Denbigh in 1999, is the UK’s largest containerised storage company with over 3,000 units providing over four million cubic feet of space at 22 parks across North and Mid Wales and the border counties.
Their existing sites stretch from Holyhead and along the North Wales coast at Caernarfon, Bangor, Llandudno and Rhyl, on the Dee at Flint, Saltney, Deeside, Sandycroft and inland at Denbigh, Mold, Wrexham and Newtown in Powys, and at Oswestry and Shrewsbury in Shropshire.