By William Coleman
The UK has an abundance of caravan dealers that have been providing vehicles, services and expert knowledge for decades and we want to know more about how they operate. The CaravanTimes team decided it was time to sit down with the Greentrees Caravan Store team and find out just how many different services they provide.
When you visit as many different leisure vehicle dealers as we do you cannot help but notice how each location evolves to match the ever-changing needs of touring holidays.
We took a trip up to Dereham to visit a dealership that focuses on so much more than selling caravans and motorhomes. Greentrees is a one-stop-shop for all things touring. The business covers all touring needs from holiday van hire to awnings and everything in between.
Our initial visit to the site was to review the latest Elddis models, but we could not help but ask questions about all the great things we saw. One of the co-owners, Marc Jordan, was kind enough to talk us through all the exciting things happening at Greentrees.
CaravanTimes: You are more than just a leisure vehicle dealer, right?
Marc: Yes indeed. We sell caravans and motorhomes, carry out services; we have a bespoke coachworks repair centre around the corner specialising in paint and damp repairs; we host in-house towing courses and lessons, as well as hiring caravans and motorhomes. On top of all that we also have a large outdoor living accessory shop.
CaravanTimes: You do new and used vans. What are the benefits of buying used?
Marc: The benefits of buying pre-owned vehicles, of course, is financial savings against new prices. The availability can sometimes be better too. Pre-owned vehicles are in stock and ready to go. For the last three years the lead time on new models has been increasing. You can typically wait an average of five months to receive your order.
New leisure vehicles do have bedding-in periods and often experience niggles and issues within the first year, they tend to be nothing major, but expect several trips to the dealer to have warranty work undertaken.
When buying pre-owned, often these vehicles have settled in and the teething problems have been dealt with, delivering less hassle ownership at a lower price and without the long wait for it to arrive.
If you chose the wrong vehicle, Greentrees offers what we believe is a first in the UK – a 30-day no quibble exchange policy. If for any reason at all you change your mind or see something you prefer arrives in stock, you can exchange within 30 days at zero cost.
CaravanTimes: Have you seen an increase in newcomers buying leisure vehicles this year?
Marc: We have seen a huge increase in “new blood” enter our market sector. Since the crash of 2008, we have not seen large volumes of newcomers to our market and young families have been few and far between.
Since Covid set in and the travel restrictions were announced we immediately saw an upswing in newcomers and first-timers of all age demographics arriving in the hundreds. We’ve seen around a 60/40 split between the newcomers and 50-65-year-olds who have never toured before.
CaravanTimes: How was 2020 for Greentrees?
Marc: 2020 has been a whirlwind of business, custom and emotions. From going into the first lockdown in March wondering, like most business owners, how our company would look when we were able to return and planning for the worst whilst hoping for the best.
We knew it would not be the same and would go one of two ways: exceptionally quiet or extremely busy. What we didn’t forecast is just m business we’d receive. We increased our working hours by 20-30 per cent per day to keep up, something our team stepped forward and offered to do to help the business.
In all departments, from sales to shop to service and certainly hire, we’ve seen a large increase in demand. In October we smashed sales records, despite missing the largest event of the caravan calendar year, the NEC show. As 2020 comes to a close, we have reported our best year trading performance since we opened our doors over 50 years ago.
Greentrees is a family business and has massive respect and value for the staff. The directors decided to donate a profit share of £10,000 to our team just before Christmas. After receiving another lockdown in November, we wanted our staff to end the year with smiles on their faces. £10,000 was shared amongst our team, which saw staff going home with a £500+ surprise for their families at this, a special time of year.
CaravanTimes: What are your plans for 2021
Marc: We plan to enter 2021 ready for the continuation of high demand for our lifestyle, holding a huge selection of stock of both new and pre-owned vehicles.
The buying of new stock has already started in preparation for spring, something we do not usually do at this time of year. In addition to that, we have added more vehicles to our HireMe leisure fleet. HireMe is our in-house rental business, which caters to people who want a taste of the lifestyle without a large initial buy-in price.
With luck, we will aim to start progress on our latest land purchase directly across the road from here. This site will see a dedicated aftercare/workshop department, allowing our current site to double our retail capacity and extend our display area for vehicles. This new area will hopefully include a new indoor showroom, as well as several commercial units we will rent to local businesses.