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Swift Group

About Swift Group

Swift Group is an automotive manufacturing firm. It specializes in the design and manufacturing of touring caravans, motorhomes, s-pods, and holiday homes. The company was founded in 1964 and is based in Cottingham, England.

Headquarters Location

Dunswell Road

Cottingham, England, HU16 4JX,

United Kingdom

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Latest Swift Group News

Static buildup: Hull’s caravan makers enjoy a British holiday boom

May 27, 2023

Hull has a strong claim to being the centre of the UK mobile home industry, but while the pandemic boosted sale, there are now fears of a glut Sat 27 May 2023 11.00 EDT When the David Attenborough nature series Wild Isles was documenting the UK and Ireland’s coastal beauty, Peter Munk noticed it not because of the rave reviews , but because traffic to his website surged. The business he runs makes caravans, and a pleasant Sunday-evening advertisement for the islands of Britain and Ireland provided a welcome boost. But his company, Willerby, hardly needed the help, as a result of a British-holiday boom during the pandemic. Some in the caravan industry are now hoping the change has shifted British holidaymaking habits for good – even as others warn that the market is facing a glut. The pandemic pushed numbers of static caravans to record levels, according to market researcher Mintel. Britons took 3.7m caravan holidays in 2019, but that rose to 4.3m in 2022. Mintel data suggests almost a quarter of the UK’s adult population has been on a caravan holiday. Britain’s forest parks and crowded coastal tourist hotspots are not the only places that have benefited from the caravanning renaissance. Willerby’s home city of Hull has a good claim to being the UK’s caravan capital. Willerby started out making beehives, but after the second world war, its founder switched to touring caravans to be towed behind cars and then the statics that now fill caravan parks. Its factory – taken over from a typewriter company – sits by Hull’s port, whose shipbuilding history and good access to timber imports probably helped it become a caravan hub. Three miles to the north-west is Victory Leisure Homes. Across the road from there is Delta Caravans. Six miles farther north, in the east Yorkshire town of Beverley, is ABI. In all, about 90% of the UK’s holiday caravans are built in the city, according to industry data. That cluster of manufacturers makes the industry an important source of employment in a city with high levels of deprivation . Munk says the local industry employs 6,000 people directly (of whom 1,100 are at Willerby), with at least 20,000 in the supply chain in the Hull and Humberside region. “It’s massive, and I don’t think [that is] fully understood,” says Munk. The UK is a net importer of consumer goods, and many traditional manufacturing industries have wound down. Even large goods are increasingly imported from China, where labour costs are much lower. However, assembled caravans are so big that it remains cheaper to make them in the UK. Manufacturers have not had it easy since the turmoil caused by lockdowns. During the pandemic, Willerby first suffered from a shortage of windows, then from a lack of plywood to board up the holes. That was followed by the huge spike in energy prices after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Some manufacturers doubt the domestic holiday boom will endure. Atlas Leisure Homes, another Hull-based manufacturer, this month made a quarter of its production staff redundant, while Victory is also planning job cuts, the BBC reported. Atlas’s managing director, Steven McGawn, said orders delayed by Covid were now being completed just as buyers are starting to struggle financially. “There’s too much stock on the market,” McGawn said in the Hull Daily Mail, while predicting more companies would make job cuts. “The people who ordered them are under pressure because of their energy bills and so on.” I think people, having holidayed in the UK through Covid, decided that appealed to them Joanne Mitchell, Swift Group marketing head Others are more optimistic. Air travel is now surging back to near pre-pandemic levels, but caravan spending is still holding up – in part thanks to the increasing popularity of going on more, shorter, holidays, scattered through the year. “The general trend is people taking more holidays,” says John Worthington, a senior travel analyst at Mintel. “Top-up breaks in the UK, main holiday abroad.” Joanne Mitchell, head of marketing at Swift Group, another manufacturer in the Hull suburb of Cottingham, says its sales are going “from strength to strength” as it approaches its 60th anniversary next year. “I think people, having holidayed in the UK through Covid, decided that appealed to them,” she says. Swift Group employs 1,300 workers. Every year it makes about 3,800 holiday homes and lodges (essentially two caravans stuck together) , but it is aiming to increase its production by 20% over the next three years. The pandemic shift to working from home can also mean “work from anywhere – as long as you’ve got wifi” for many people, says Mitchell. Working Fridays from a holiday home is getting more popular, she adds. From a distance, modern static caravans look much the same as they did in the first boom, during the 1950s. Straightforward tech improvements have helped the industry shake off its reputation for damp and dreariness. Workers on the production line at holiday home maker Willerby’s factory in Hull. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Observer The product itself has improved from what Munk describes as “slightly better than a tent” in the postwar years, with no double glazing or central heating. There is more change to come: gas boilers will have to be replaced with electric heating, meaning holiday park operators may have to upgrade the electricity connections at pitches. At Willerby’s factory in Hull, a 4.3- metre by 13-metre (14ft by 43ft) metal frame is clad in plywood, becoming more recognisably a building as it travels down the factory line. Workers stand on top of the box, nailing on the roof. Then comes the built-in furniture, mod cons, windows and doors, all added at dedicated stations. By the end of the line, 4,500 parts from more than 150 suppliers are in place. One home can be built from start to finish in 13.5 hours on the fastest line. An entry-level Willerby costs about £38,000; at the top end, caravans can cost £150,000 before even considering a good pitch. But those costs pale in comparison with a bricks-and-mortar holiday house in property-crisis Britain. Munk says his company is seeing “a continued trend towards bigger and better-specified units, which tells us that people are using them more”. Spending on caravan holidays reached £1.2bn in 2022, well ahead of 2019’s £900m, Mintel says. Worthington says the rise in spending was “down to solid demand, but also a trend towards premium statics, people spending more money on statics and premium lodges”. He adds: “At all levels of the market there has been a lot of investment in facilities,” with sustained interest from US property investment trusts and private equity – Willerby is also majority-owned by European investor Equistone Partners. “We are expecting these trends to continue,” says Munk. “I can only see it going the right way – the general trends, the ageing population, the stable population.” The cost of living crisis will probably affect numbers this year, particularly in some of the larger holiday parks, owned by the likes of Haven, Parkdean Resorts and Park Holidays UK, which are reliant on getting lots of people through the gates. But many caravan users are older and less affected by the squeeze on wages, argues Munk. He cites an increase in “3G living”, when three generations of a family will holiday together, funded by the grandparents. The caravan industry has in the past been more resilient during tougher economic times. For many families the prospect of holidaying in the UK offers the promise (if not always the reality) of a cost saving. “It tends to do relatively well in economic downturns,” says Worthington. “Some people return to static caravans in place of cottage holidays and going abroad.” Munk sees a parallel with the first real holiday boom, as Victorian railway lines helped to invent the concept of leisure travel. People travelled in droves to Brighton or Blackpool to get close to the sea. “It’s come full circle,” Munk says. Topics

Swift Group Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • Where is Swift Group's headquarters?

    Swift Group's headquarters is located at Dunswell Road, Cottingham.

  • Who are Swift Group's competitors?

    Competitors of Swift Group include Autodemontering and 4 more.

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