The weather was kinder this year with a mild winter and spring and a notable absence of the ‘Beast from the East’. Easter was later and coincided with some pleasant weather. Summer was more mixed but did have its fair share of heatwaves, one of which saw temperatures soar to record breaking levels in Cambridgeshire during July.
The main bugbear for the market in 2019 has been the ongoing political backdrop hindering consumer spending confidence. The UK failed to leave the European Union in March and October, which only intensified economic uncertainty.
There has been a high level of unsold 2019 stock in the dealer network carried into the new season, which has led to distress selling. To prevent this happening again, most dealers were more cautious when ordering 2020 model year units, and many are ordering in stages rather than everything at the beginning of the season. In turn, manufacturers have been more flexible towards dealer order placements.
The National Motorhome and Caravan show took place at the NEC in Birmingham between the 15th and 20th October. According to the National Caravan Council (NCC) 94,240 visitors attended which was down on last year when more than 96,000 attended. Feedback from manufacturers and dealers at the show was mixed with some reporting stronger sales than anticipated; whilst others held the view, it was quiet, as expected. Displays remained as impressive as ever with plenty to keep the trade and public interested.
Moving forward, there is the Caravan and Motorhome show at Manchester’s Event City, taking place from the 16th to 19th January and the Camping Caravan and Motorhome show from 18th to 23rd February at the NEC in Birmingham.
During the last quarter, dealer feedback suggested order intake was behind last year. Some dealers explained the season finished earlier than normal, with healthy demand until June/July, after which it went quiet. 8-foot wide vans continue to be strong sellers with increasing numbers purchased to permanently site. One dealer explained that 50% of their 8-foot sales are for siting.
There remains a high number of unsold 2019 vans in the market but they are selling and there is belief that this will be less of an issue at the end of the 2020 season, due to most dealers ordering fewer units earlier.
Market Statistics September 2019 vs 2018
- Production of units intended for UK distribution was 8.7% down.
- Moving annual total [MAT] for UK distribution was 13.2% down.
- Factory invoiced sales saw a downturn of 12%.
- Moving annual total [MAT] for factory sales was 15.1% down.
- Demand for two and six berths is down on last year.
- Demand for four and five berths and twin axles are broadly in line.
- Majority of dealers are offering similar discounts, although a fair percentage are offering more.
- Customer finance penetration is overall equal but a number of dealers report weaker penetration.
- Island beds with center washrooms remain top choice.
Used caravan sales continue to be more buoyant than new with the majority of dealers holding the view that sales are broadly in line with last year. However, a reasonable percentage of traders reported stronger activity. The bulk of demand is for units with a transverse island bed layout. Units with the center washroom are becoming a popular used choice, but there are relatively few in the market currently.
- Demand for all berths including twin axles was broadly in line with last year.
- Stock availability during the last quarter has been similar to the same period 2018.
- Traders reported having less five and six berth family units, albeit there are relatively few in the market.
- Twin single beds also less popular used.
- Majority of dealers are happy with their stock levels.
What are the prospects for 2020?
It is very likely to be a tough start but much hinges on the outcome of 31st January. If the UK leaves the European Union, there is certainly potential for 2020 to be a stronger year, albeit the industry may have to wait until 2021 for any marked growth. However, if BREXIT faces another delay then it could be a similar year to 2019.
For this edition, taking into account the market place and remaining unsold 2019 models heavily discounted, values have been reduced across the board, except where trade feedback or evidence from the market has indicated further adjustment were necessary.