The Web team had a wee chat with Gem Caravans founder Dougie on the past, present and future for Gem Caravans
How did it all start?
Back in 2003 i had poor service from a mobile caravan "engineer". I had to fix a number of issues myself and the seed was sown that this might be an opportunity for a business. I spent a few months researching the caravan industry and the seasonal variations to see if a 12mth business was viable..... It wasnt. the idea was put on the back burner. In 2007, with a pregnant wife i was fed up of working as a maintenance contractor living out a suitcase so looked again at the industry. The financial crash brought things to a head and in June 2009 Gem Caravans mobile servicing was born working on a part-time basis, i sold the family car and bought an old Transit. In November 2009 the decision to go full -time was made for me...... Starting a caravan business in November?????
The early years and why Gem?
Wow, that was hard going. Winter 2009-10 was pretty bad and i couldnt afford to go into the caravan show at the SECC as i`d planned, so i ran the gauntlet of the security guards for 4 days sticking flyers under wipers and in the toilets. Absolutely freezing it was. I trailed round the dealers and basically annnoyed everyone but i was getting the name out there and slowly the work came in. During that year i got the chance to take over the storage facility in Crossford. Things progressed well although my early findings about seasonal variations were true and hit hard in the winter of 2011. In 2013 the demise of a local main dealer gave me the chance to take on the Bailey Transient warranty but it wasnt working as a mobile service and i nearly gave it up. In 2014 I built a small 2 bay workshop at Crossford and that was the catalyst for the next few years. Gem came from my daughter Gemma.
Where is Gem Caravans at now?
It`s very much a work in progress. Using the experience of working with the wonderful guys at Bailey I felt we could expand the workshop activities and reduce the more time consuming mobile servicing so i approached the major manufacturers and Elddis came on board. This resulted in a boost in work so i took on a trainee and we are now three. Swift invited us to become a service centre in early 2020 and I did look at a 4th member of staff but Covid uncertainty has put that on hold. We have been squeezed out of Crossford so in late 2020 the purchase of the derelict Ex-Stagecoach bus depot at Wellwood was completed.
Whats the future and tell us about Wellwood
I think we need to go easy on our expansion plans until the effects of Covid and Brexit are clearer and run as we are for now, however the projected boom in staycationers may alleviate some of our concerns with leisure vehicle use expected to increase but for various reasons it is still uncertain how things will go. I took a chance on Wellwood purely because it seemed the right move to make. We are building a new workshop and creating a storage facility which will build on what we currently have. It is intended to run it alongside Crossford but we do have options. Wellwood is a blank canvas, we have 10yrs experience on what works and we can implement ideas from the start... Mind you, I sometimes look out the window at the bleak landscape and wonder "what have I done".
I was coming into an industry i knew little about, i flew by the seat of my pants ( i didnt know what a new style Truma combi boiler looked like far less how to fix it) and got some lucky breaks. With hindsight I got in at a good time, the advancements in caravan build technology and appliances have been huge, the manufacturers are trying different things and we have evolved with them. Everybody was learning the new methods at the same time and it made for a level playing field. A few years later and we wouldnt have made it. We`d be too far behind.
We are a Bailey of Bristol approved service centre for warranty and repairs.
We are an approved Whale service centre for all Whale caravan products including I-Van.
We fix most problems including floor delamination at our workshop. Just call us.
We supply and fit motor movers and transfer mover from your old van to your new one.
We can relocate your caravan to seasonal pitches.
We are able to offer caravan storage at competitive rates within our 200-space secure facility.
Motorhome Hire Landlords Gas Certificates