Nick News, Spotlight

Nick’s News – Jerba Campers, the end of John Cross, and the Sprite Alpine 4

The exterior of the Sprite Alpine 4

Nick HardingNick’s News – Nick Harding is an expert in all things motorhomes, caravans and camping. Each week, Nick explores products, locations, holiday ideas and essential community information on our behalf – It’s a Hard-ing Life for Nick, but here is what he found this week.

My week

Are you thinking of buying a brand-new touring caravan or motorhome for use next year? I’m going to be the bringer of bad news, I’m afraid. Your dealer will go through estimated delivery times with you and yes, I’m afraid at this stage they will only be estimates, and probably optimistic ones at that.

But there will also be disclaimers about price rises, with almost a 100 per cent probability that they will go up. That’s mainly because of the soaring prices of raw materials and plastics, plus key items such as silicon chips, not to mention a backdrop of supply challenges generally.

Still want to go ahead? If yes, I offer you a little bit of advice: keep your deposit to a minimum and make your money work for you elsewhere instead.

In the newsSimon Poole

Jerba and its employee-owned model

I’ve been speaking to Simon Poole, who is the boss of Jerba, a campervan converter based in North Berwick. He and his partner Cath founded Jerba back in 2006, before making it an employee-owned company in 2018. It’s a way of giving staff a bigger say in how a company is run and Simon says it’s really fulfilling.

He added: “People ask me what I’ve really enjoyed about the business and it’s walking out the door of an evening and knowing that I’ve given really good jobs to 15 people. We give bonuses out each year and by this time next year the company will have no debt whatsoever.

“In the not-too-distant-future, some of the staff will be receiving bonuses that, for them, will be life-changing. It gives them real job security and makes them financially secure into the future. It’s a really good story.”

He also cites the employee-ownership model as a key reason why folk buy a Jerba campervan, as well as reckoning it’s far less stressful because everyone is pulling together.

It sounds like a great way to run a business. I’m just surprised others across the leisure vehicles sector haven’t gone down the same route.

John Cross – gone

I was sorry to hear about the John Cross dealership in East Sussex going under. Owner Jaycross Ltd went into administration in August, after owner-director Peter Bartlett sadly passed away in 2020 and the business never re-opened after lockdown.

It’s somewhat amazing to think any retailer of motorhomes or caravans could be struggling at the moment, albeit the biggest single challenge for all of them is getting stock to sell. Nevertheless, all manner of circumstances seemed to conspire against John Cross.

There was an auction of the company’s remaining stock, which consisted of some six motorhomes and quite a variety of accessories. I understand a small number of motorhomes, which the company was due to sell on behalf of private individuals on a sale-or-return basis, were returned to their owners.

I hope the employees, who were on the furlough scheme, find alternative employment sooner rather than later.

Van Live! – coming your way

As socially distanced events go, Van Live! surely is the best. This year’s edition is the third such event brought straight to you by the publisher of the Practical Caravan and Practical Motorhome magazines.

It all takes place October 18th to 25th and you can sign in to see halls devoted to UK-made vehicles, imports, dealers, campsites, accessories, advice and more.

You even get to download your own goodie bag!

Caravan crushInterior of the Sprite Alpine 4

Sprite Alpine 4 – feeling a bit French

My goodness, if your Sprite memories are of caravans that pushed the boundaries at the budget end of the market, you’ll get quite a shock when you look at the current offerings.

The marque, under the ownership of Swift these days, heads into 2022 with an 11-model line-up and, while the Alpine 4 probably won’t be one of the bestsellers, an MTPLM of 1,284kg is light and attractive.

But it’s also one of the better executions I’ve seen of a rear French bed floorplan. That’s partly because of the washroom configuration being adjacent. Instead of cramming the basin, toilet and shower into the washroom, which so often also means also compromising the bed, the Alpine 4 puts the handbasin outside the washroom, albeit also handily bedside.

New for 2022 features include the Dometic series 10 98-litre fridge, extra USB ports and the like. And Swift has long excelled at turning out smart looking leisure vehicles.

Some £20,000 gets you a brand-new Sprite Alpine 4 nowadays and that’s considered a budget leisure vehicle That’s the price of progress, I guess, although do note French bed models like this don’t feature in many manufacturers’ portfolios now.

Three good: Great value, good French bed formula and smart styling
Two bad: Price creep and a floorplan that seems to be losing favour
Perfect for… Keeping the price down and the luxury up
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