Welcome to Van Live! Simon, tell us about your current role
I’m the marketing director at Bailey and head a team of eight. I’m also responsible for customer service, which has a team of 12 and a service centre where we handle repairs. We have rapid-response vehicles which attend to vehicles in the field, and I have 15 engineers who report to me.
How long have you been with the company?
Pretty much since birth: my family has owned the business since 1973. My father and uncle originally ran it; now I run it with my brother Nick, who is managing director.
Tell us about Bailey’s history
We’ve been making caravans since 1948 and we’re the UK’s longest-established manufacturer. Mr Bailey built his first caravan in his garage in South Bristol and started the firm as a result. We began selling motorhomes in 2011.
What memories do you have of tours as a child?
All of our holidays were caravan trips! We loved it and went all over the UK. We normally go to France once a year for some sun. Typically, Dad would be testing prototypes and we rarely went in a finished ‘van – that was our consumer testing!
What’s the best trip that you’ve been on?
I’ve been very lucky because I’ve been on three Bailey adventures [international trips run by the firm to promote its brands].
First, we towed two caravans across Australia, from Shark Bay on the west coast to Byron Bay on the east coast. Three years ago, we drove to the Arctic Circle in Finland, and then two years ago we drove to Istanbul and back.
It’s shown me that caravans and motorhomes allow you to access parts of the world that other holidays can’t reach.
Where would you like to go next?
We set off on another Bailey adventure in March, heading for the Sahara, but the restrictions on travel because of the coronavirus meant we only got as far as The Lighthouse at the End of the World, at Sagres in south-west Portugal, before the Moroccan authorities closed the border.
When we’re allowed, I’d like to go to the Sahara. And in the UK, some trips in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
What’s special about your brand – its USP?
We position ourselves as ‘the nation’s favourite’. The difference is that we enjoy using the products as much as customers do. The big positive that we get in terms of feedback about the adventure trips we organise is not the great places we visit, but the fact we clearly enjoy using the vehicles. Customers enjoy watching us make mistakes like they do – we’re part of the touring community.
What news from your brand?
We furloughed virtually everybody on full pay and didn’t have to make any redundancies. A skeleton crew is running key departments. Launches will be postponed, but the product development team is working on new models.
This year, the emphasis is on motorhomes. While we’ll naturally follow the Government advice, there will be life after the coronavirus, and we’ve recently resumed dispatching new motorhomes.
Where do you see the industry going?
The virus might mean that more people choose to holiday in the UK in future, so there could be an increase in business.
Getting vehicle weights down, to enable as many people as possible to tow or drive them, will also be important.
Electrification is going to be a key development in motorhomes. In caravans, we’re seeing a split between smaller, lighter touring vans and larger 8ft models that are used as seasonal vehicles.
What’s your top tip for people looking to buy?
Layout is the number one thing to think about. How many people are going to be using your motorhome? Consider where you’re going to take it and whether you’ll be going to big sites with full facilities, or remote locations.
What’s on your driving playlist?
I’m currently listening to a lot of Northern Soul.
Favourite meal or recipe while out on tour?
When we go on the adventures, we try to eat local produce. When we were heading through Portugal, we made a lovely Paella.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us!
On the Bailey adventures, I have driven some 12,000 miles, but I still can’t reverse a caravan! I’m strong going forwards but have a brain freeze when I try to reverse. But that can remain our secret….
My family has owned the business since 1973. My father and uncle originally ran it; now I run it with my brother Nick, who is managing director.