Here, Nick Glaves explores the story behind Victory Leisure Homes' new models and the cyclical process which incorporates trade shows, customer feedback, design and build...
With new or updated models launched every year by major manufacturers, the holiday home and lodge industry is anything but static.
Indeed, almost as soon as next year’s models have been launched, work gets underway on the following year’s, meaning the merry-go-round of product design, development and launch never ends.
It is a cycle Peter Nevitt knows only too well. Peter is the managing director of Victory Leisure Homes and has more than 40 years’ experience in the industry, much of that time successfully heading up Cosalt Holiday Homes.
He has dedicated his career to creating the best holiday homes and lodges he possibly can, which has led to Victory Leisure Homes forging a reputation for excellence.
“Development of the new models starts almost immediately after the launch of current year’s models,” Peter said.
“There is no break. So, for example, September 2017 we had the launch of our 2018 models, and after that the process starts again, planning our 2019 models.”
The process starts with collecting rigorous feedback on the latest models at shows such as Cottingham in September and Beaulieu shortly after that. This is where the trade examine the models for the first time and make their initial assessments.
Further feedback comes via Victory Leisure Homes’ sales team who speak to the company’s network of clients on a regular basis and collect more in-depth information about how the trade views the ranges.
Collating these views is the first step in creating the new models.
'Trade shows give us around 70% of our feedback'
“The summer and autumn shows at Hull, Beaulieu and West Point give us around 70% of the feedback we need to get the ball rolling,” Peter said.
“But we can’t just focus on the next year’s models. At the same time we need to have an eye on what we’re doing for the mid-season launch. Do we have a gap in one of our ranges? Our customers will soon tell us if they think we have, and we need to fill it.
“Of course, we’re in full production of the current models during this period to fulfil the orders we have on the books, so we’re really working on all fronts.”
After extensive discussions assessing the feedback, Peter puts together a design brief for the new models. With nearly 40 different models across Victory’s ranges of holiday homes and lodges, this is no small task, particularly as most if not all are subject to some level of development every year.
The brief is then passed on to Gary Woodifield, director of development and technical services at Victory Leisure Homes, who has 38 years’ experience in the industry.
Gary heads up a caravan design team and a lodge design team, and together they create an ‘information package’ for each new model, which contains every nugget of information the production team will need to make it.
He also works alongside the director of operations, Gary Corlyon, to ensure that it is possible to build the designs his teams will create.
“I work to three key dates,” Gary says. “Pre-show, when some of our customers come to visit us at the factory to get the first glimpse of the development models. This usually takes place in the second week of June. Then there is the start of new model production, around the second week of July, and then the September show at Cottingham. It is absolutely essential all the models are perfected by then.
“Once Peter hands me the brief, I can estimate how long the models will take to make and map out those dates from there.
“We then decide on which models we need to prototype first, which gives us a sequence to work to. Then it is up to me and the design team to create the information packages that will eventually go to the production team.”
As Victory Leisure Homes doesn’t have a dedicated prototyping facility, all development models must be slotted into the ongoing production schedule.
'Sandra has a great eye for what is fashionable'
This means the designs Gary’s teams create must be as close to the end product as it is possible to get.
The designers use AutoCAD for the holiday home or lodge design, and sophisticated 3D graphic design software to create visual representations of the furniture that will go into each model.
As 90% of the furniture is made in-house, the software enables the team to design and piece together the whole interior long before the plans hit the factory floor.
Next comes the task of liaising with suppliers, choosing colour schemes and ordering upholstery and soft furnishings.
It is an area Peter and his wife Sandra come into their own, as Sandra works as the company’s interior designer.
Peter said: “Sandra has a great eye for what is fashionable. She will go to show homes, read magazines and look at what is popular in the shops for inspiration. However, we need to be careful because we’re about three seasons behind household interior design and we need to reflect that. Our market can be conservative, so some of the ultra-modern designs wouldn’t work for us.”
Peter added that themes and colour schemes will often come about after they have visited suppliers and seen what they have got. The carpet, particularly, is important in choosing a colour scheme.
“We will often pick the carpet first and design around that,” he said.
“This is because carpets are so difficult to retro-fit into a colour scheme and design theme. If you start from the bottom up, so to speak, you usually end up where you need to be.
“Other times we might just see a colour or a fabric we really like and go from there. Inspiration can take many forms, but if you feel something is right, it probably is.”
All this information – furniture design, colour schemes, soft furnishings and upholstery – is written into the information package along with layout changes and changes to the external features of the caravans.
It takes eight weeks from the drawing board to the end of production
According to Gary, it takes eight weeks for a new model to go from the drawing board to rolling off the production line, and a big chunk of that time is waiting for materials to be delivered.
“It takes around 20 working days to complete an information package for a brand new model, although that can be significantly less for tweaks or changes to existing models, and up to four weeks and three days for the materials to be delivered,” Gary said. “So this has to be closely factored in when planning the build process. We could be creating or tweaking more than 30 models, so we need to know when everything is arriving to avoid disrupting our production schedule.”
Just a couple of months after the process starts, the first of the new development models rolls off the production line. Peter and Gary are always among the first people to inspect them.
“I still get a buzz from seeing the new models for the first time,” Peter confesses. “But it’s always a bit nerve wracking because we don’t have a prototyping facility, so they need to be right, or very, very close so the final tweaks can be made before they go into full production.
“Thankfully, we have a great team here at Victory who always manage to deliver the goods, and that is something I’m proud of.”
Once the holiday homes and caravans are perfected, they go into production and are launched at the major summer shows. Then the whole process starts again as the Victory team gather feedback for the next year’s models.
It is a never-ending cycle which sees Victory Leisure Homes' range get better and better every year. It is also one that keeps Peter coming back for more.
“I love the process of trying to improve on what we did last year,” he said. “That way you never stop, you’re always thinking of the next big thing, and that’s what has kept me hooked on caravans for the past 40 plus years.”