West Country MotorHomes

www.wcmh.co.uk 5 father was too involved in cars and building work and, as a generation, we were probably guilty of not having enough family holidays. But my parents did enjoy the flexibility of being able to jump in a motorhome to go o for a weekend. We grew with the motorhome industry. But this was around the time when they announced changes to taxation to include new motorhomes. This was a hammer blow to the market because prices shot up almost overnight. We were only dealing in secondhand so it didn’t really a ect us. So luckily, we continued to grow, despite that. The next development was new models? We went into new motorhomes in 1986 with Richard Holdsworth, then in 1987 we took on Elddis and Swift. We were among only about half a dozen motorhome dealers who could get stocking lines with Fiat – it meant we had some 240 days before having to pay for the motorhome to encourage dealers to take in stock. Next came Autohomes, then Auto- Sleepers and Auto-Trail. Bailey was the most recent. They seem to have hit the market at the right time in 2012. And we’ve been with these main manufacturers ever since. They’re the manufacturers we prefer to deal with. That’s what works for us. Our relationships with our manufacturers have been really strong. That’s always been good for West Country Motorhomes and, ultimately, our customers. There’s never been a UK manufacturer franchise that we’ve dropped. Though there has been the demise of Autohomes, Holdsworth, Autocruise and Bentley. I do feel our strength is to be multi- franchise. Every manufacturer has its ups and downs, but we’ve stuck with them all religiously over the long-term. And you? Did you always work on the sales side? In those early years my trade was paint spraying. I wasn’t on the sales side, I was Our relationships with our manufacturers have been really strong. That’s always been good for West Country Motorhomes and, ultimately, our customers. It’s all about the sta , too. Most of them have been with us for at least 15 to 20 years. You can’t buy that kind of experience and dedication. in the paint shop re-furbishing vehicles, adding two-tone paintwork to some of the vans we were buying etc. I moved to sales when I was about 22-23. Again, we were working seven days a week. I wasn’t married yet either. In 1986 my brother Paul and Peter Shaw had joined the company on the sales team and we did our first Earls Court show (back then, the UK’s largest motorhome exhibition). Paul worked Autohomes, Peter on Elddis and I was on the Holdsworth stand. It was all a big world for Somerset lads going up to the bright lights of London! You’ve always been a family business. When did you take over? My father had a stroke when he was 52. I was 29 at the time. He was out of the business, instantly. And it all landed on my lap, big time. Basically, I grew up overnight. But it’s like any business – if you’ve got the sta and the experience, and someone at the helm who cares and works, you’ll pull through at some point. It changed the whole business, too. The concept of how my father ran a business and how I run a business is di erent. He was “old school”, and when I got involved the business changed regarding what we were doing and how we were doing it. We were getting repeat customers – people coming back to us because they liked us as a company. The market was also getting stronger again, despite the blips of recessions. 2008 was obviously the big, worldwide recession which did catch a lot of people. It’s all about the sta , too. Most of the guys here have been with us for at least 15 to 20 years. You can’t buy that kind of experience and dedication. Moving to purpose-built, new premises at Brent Knoll was another major step forward? What we produced from the old site was incredible, but when we came here, in 2002, we started hitting some real milestones. From then, it was like a new broom. The new site was quite small initially, but we were growing. So, we bought extra land at the side and then the back, which we had surfaced to increase the sales area, about five years ago. Then we put up the new workshops about three years ago to create a dedicated After Sales facility on the site. When we came here we turned a corner, and for five years it really was very buoyant. We were in the right place at the right time. Today, people who come here can see the whole concept. It demonstrates to customers that they’re going to be looked after. This is still one of the few purpose-built motorhome showrooms and sales premises in the whole country. It was definitely one of the first. Also, we get most of the work done through our own workshops, purely because we can control the quality of the work in the knowledge that it’s done by qualified professionals. Not forgetting the West Country Motorhomes Sales Centre at Swindon. What’s the story there? We went for Swindon initially because we thought it was an opportunity. It was a growing town. For various reasons, it was a brave move. We had di erent premises there before we settled on our current location. But we ended up buying the current site and having it purpose-made for selling motorhomes. We’ve been there over ten years now and it continues to go from strength to strength. Are you still hands on? What’s the future? I am, yes. I still get involved in all aspects of the business and like to keep an overall eye on things, but my ideal week is three days! Both myself and director Peter Shaw turned 60 last year so we’re looking to step back in the not too distant future. In the past, our lives meant working a lot more than we should have done, and not getting our holidays in. We have a good team waiting in the wings, Steve Taylor is our Sales Manager. He’s 37 now, but he came to work for us (as a mechanic) in the workshop when he was 16. My son Max is 28 and has been with the company for eight years learning the business. They and the rest of the team are more than capable of running it all. The end-game is for Steve and Max to take it all forward and, as I say, who knows what the next 40 years will bring? Q

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