Swift Group Marks 50 Years with Record Caravan Sales

Flying high

Swift Group, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, has innovated and developed to achieve record sales

Founded in 1964 manufacturing touring caravans, Swift Group has grown to be one of the UK’s leading producers of award winning caravans, motorhomes and holiday homes. Its policy is to produce innovative products that are well designed, constructed to the highest standards and provide outstanding value for money. It achieves these by constantly developing production techniques and standards, and by responding well to the changing social and economic environment. Commitment to these three aspects has rewarded Swift with record levels of sales, with annual turnover of over £200 million, and rapid growth as the economy comes out of a recession. Manufacturing Today Europe spoke to the company’s group commercial director, Nick Page, who commented on his confidence: “Things are looking very positive for 2015 and onwards as consumer confidence continues to improve,” he confirmed.

The company currently has three divisions: touring caravans, motorhomes and holiday homes. It holds a dominant market share of 40 per cent for its caravans, 21 per cent for motorhomes and in the last 12 months achieved 20 per cent market share in the holiday home sector to become one of the three dominant manufacturers in the UK. The latter sector represents the fastest growing market for the company and Nick puts this down to the strength of the brand.

“In all three divisions we cater for the vast majority of each market, ensuring that we provide products in different segments to suit most budgets,” Nick explains, and growth can be seen at all levels: “The caravans, in some respect like the supermarket sector, has seen incredible growth a the top-end of the market with Elegance and Continental ranges, and a 70 per cent increase in our entry-level range, Sprite.” Across the divisions a general breakdown consists of entry-level products, contemporary and classic designs and top-end models, yet what pervades them all is a level of quality and precision that comes as a result of Swift’s comprehensive production processes.

Spread across three Yorkshire sites Swift manufactures its products utilising lean production methods, a development that as Nick emphasises: “Drives efficiencies into the manufacturing process seeing a significant reduction in costs.” It makes use of a £1.25 million Reichenbacker CNC machine, which ensures automation, accuracy and a more efficient production process. The reduction of costs that results can be passed down to the customer and means that Swift can meet its aim of providing excellent value for money.

Swift commenced building with its new intelligent construction system SMART across the entire touring caravan range from the 2014 season. SMART is based on proven technology and provides a strong timber-less body frame with all fixing made into a ‘PURe’ material to a pre-defined depth. ‘PURe’ is totally impervious to water and has no veins, this means there is no passage for water from the outer skin to the inner wallboard. This delivers modern desirable looks and a class leading Aerodynamic shape that is highly resilient to moisture.

SMART HT takes the SMART intelligent construction system to a new level with the use of hi-tech materials. This is the ultimate construction method used on the flagship Swift Elegance and Sterling Continental ranges. SMART HT uses a completely timberless floor and internal body shell through the use of hi-tech materials locked together with a unique aluminium and SRIM jointing system providing an enormous amount of strength and rigidity in to the structure.

Innovation within the manufacturing process does not stop with its own operations. Swift works very closely with its suppliers, and only works with those that are the best and most innovative. Nick tells Manufacturing Today Europe: “Customers buy into new ideas and new methods, and are looking for the best and most innovative leisure vehicles they can possibly buy. We constantly challenge suppliers to improve and regularly conduct supplier reviews to ensure that we are always ahead of the game.” This commitment to quality and innovation within the manufacturing process has translated into quite substantial sales volumes. In September last year Swift took its largest single order in history to supply a leading park operator with holiday homes. Its presence at caravan and motorhome shows at the NEC in October 2014 and February 2015 both produced record sales, and the company has already sold out of its motorhome production capacity for the current season. In short, Nick remarks: “All product sectors are performing remarkably well and with the market recovering it is a very positive time for Swift at the moment.”

Outside of innovation within production, it can also be seen in the products Swift is developing. Most recently is the S-Pod: “It was born out of research that suggested people are looking for something different that is a step up from a ‘glamping pod’ and is ideal for short stays, acting as a central hub for their activities. It offers more style and comfort than other similar products.” The unit includes a fully integrated kitchen and washroom, and has a pull down bed that transforms it from a day space to a night space in less than 30 seconds. According to Nick the concept has received positive interest from sectors such as hotel chains, golf clubs, self-build sectors and fisheries, and has received universal industry acclaim. Holiday parks have shown particular interest seeing themselves benefitting from the pod as a way to increase revenues from more regular lets. The pod is the first of several concepts that will be launched in12-18 months and represents the company’s forward thinking approach to innovation. Swift is constantly looking for innovative products that could have a large commercial footprint, Nick explains: “We always have one eye on the future, always looking at the next project that could take us into new areas and develop new market opportunities.”

As the company looks to the future it is completely focused on continued growth and expansion. “I believe we will be a dominant player in the motorhome market with over 30 per cent market share and also a dominant player in the holiday home market. I also believe we will be conquering new markets with new products as well as bringing new people into the industry,” Nick answers when asked about the company’s five year plan. Recent changes in pension regulation also have the potential to create a ‘mini boom’ in the industry as customers with increased access to their money look to fulfil their aspirations of owning a leisure vehicle. Ultimately, Swift Group has experienced an extraordinary period of growth out of the recession and has plans to extend that position as the UK’s leading manufacturer of leisure vehicles. As long as its three-point policy is adhered to, the company looks sure to achieve the success it has earned from the last 50 years of building a strong brand.

Swift Group
Products: Leisure vehicle manufacturer
Sites: Three sites in Yorkshire
Employees: 900