East Lothian campervan converter firm restarts work ahead of expected staycation rush
Jerba Campervans said it will bring back all 15 staff to its premises following its decision to return to work in line with the latest government guidelines.The North Berwick-based converters halted production due to the Covid-19 lockdown, with vans at varying stages of conversion – including one “pristine” motor fully ready to be taken to its new home, but unable to be picked up in time due to the restrictions.
The firm said it has seen its own web traffic for June jump nearly 80 per cent year on year, and cited research suggesting that demand for motorhomes, caravans and campers is increasing in line with an anticipated “staycation boom”.
Founder Simon Poole said: “Thankfully we were able to complete a number of jobs prior to lockdown coming in, which ensured we were well-placed to see out the lockdown. We’re now in a position where we can cautiously return our teams, on a phased basis, and begin completing the vans currently in the process of being converted.
“There is a lot of talk about surging demand for campervans, which is great, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Clearly we have a long way to go in the recovery from Covid-19, and speed bumps ahead. But thankfully, it seems we have no concerns with receiving vans from Volkswagen, who have been brilliant – as have our customers, who have stuck by us as their dream vans have had to sit idle in our base.”
Poole and his wife Cath founded Jerba in 2006 after a decade of owning and hiring campervans all over the world, believing they could improve the design and user experience themselves.
The firm is recognised by Volkswagen as a registered vehicle body builder. The German manufacturer supplies Jerba with the skeletons of the vans, which it transforms into “stylish” homes on wheels, made individually to the customer’s specification.
Jerba became a 100 per cent employee-owned business in 2018, with Poole – who previously held roles at Cancer Research UK and John Waddingtons – saying that year that it was “simply the right thing to do, both morally and practically”.
He added: “It is safe to say that it has truly energised the place. Everyone is acutely aware of the importance of minimising waste and tackling projects thoughtfully and creatively, as it impacts the profit-sharing bonus scheme.”
It has seen an increase in productivity year on year, with employees “fully engaged” in the running of the business. The firm said in February of last year that it had seen its turnover rise to £2.7 million in 2018 from £2.2m in the previous year, its most successful year since starting out in 2005. It also flagged productivity jumping by 12 per cent.
Employee ownership is said to be one of the fastest-growing business formats in the UK and will be celebrated this Friday on “EO Day”.
Jerba Campervans said in September that it was creating videos for its buyers of their van being turned into a bespoke, tailor-made vehicle.
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