It's Our 40th Anniversary ..
On the 17th March 2022 chipping Sodbury caravans will be 40 years old.
Mike and Mary Pickford decided over the cold winter of 1982 that the door to door milk delivery had had its time and Mike thought leisure was the way to go. The opportunity to buy what was known as Cancombe Caravans came up and they decided to take the plunge, which was a brave decision as neither of them had much experience of touring caravans, but they knew how to work hard.
At this time the only stock we had was the odd collection that was left when they took over from Adrias to something called a Jumatt, so they needed a franchise to sell.
Mike managed to get hold of Trophy and Robin Caravans and then Bailey, this made sense as we all know they are built in Bristol. Later that summer we managed to buy some end of season models, as was the normality at the time these were the standard Bailey range with green stripes on the outside, we called them the Greeny Meanys:
This was to start of our long standing relationship with Baileys. Robin and Trophy stopped production so we started selling CI which gave us the iconic Sprite brand, but sadly they were on the decline at that point. 1987 started with us also now selling the new Coachman range. At this point we had a stake in Mendip Caravans which then gave us access to the Elddis range, this worked well alongside the Baileys, as the Elddis Wisp and XL range were stronger at the lower end than the Baileys and Bailey Pageant and Senator range were stronger at the top end Elddis range, we kept with this through to the start of the 1996 season.
Late 1995 we started discussions with Bailey about a dealer special, these went on till we got the call to pop over to look at something they had built, this turned out to be the Ranger range of caravans, the largest one was priced at £9995 (where the similar equipped Pageant at the time was £13695) it was a massive change, we launched it the Bristol Caravan Show in the January of 1996 and they were very well received, and then again at the February show at the NEC. With the success of the Ranger, Bailey took the ideas behind the range through to the whole range for the 1997 season:
This triggered a period of growth for us and Bailey, our sales increased as did theirs which meant in late 1999 we needed to increase work shop capacity so we moved to our current site, over the winter, in time for the start of 2000 - this allowed us to increase the shop size at the sales site. The period of growth continued which led to another 2 bays being added to the work shop.
This was driven by the longer warranties requiring caravans to be serviced every year. By the late 2000’s Bailey decided they need to change how the caravan was built, needing to move away from wood and plastic front and rear panels as these had a tendency to split, allowing water ingress and creating large warranty repair bills. With the growth from 1997 Bailey were able to now invest into new technologies and with this came the new Alu-tech construction.
This was the first change in caravan construction since the early 1980’s when the bonded sides came out, with this new construction we again need to more work shop space to allow us to replace the complete sides on the alu tech van so we added our tent as we call it to allow a dedicated area for repairs and leave the other bays to do servicing and PDIs. The new construction also allowed Bailey to start building their first motorhomes in 2012, these were a natural fit for us so we went along with them and started selling the motorhomes Jamie also found that motorhomes suited his family needs so had the first 760 Approach built and now has the proto type Autograph 765 which is still going strong after nine years.
Sadly, in 2014 we lost Mike after a short illness, he has proved to be a hard act to follow. The company is now run by Jamie, with Mary still the background, and Jamie’s wife Jen in the workshop, we are still a family run firm which allows us to change with the market, and no bigger change than the challenges we have all faced over the last 2 years - it has been worrying at times but we got through it as we all have but it has allowed us and the industry as a whole to have a reorganise and put everyone on a better footing moving forward. We will face some more challenges over the next year as we try and catch up with the back log of spares and parts supply for the manufactures but there is light at the end of the tunnel.