Tent specialist, Kampa, recently opened a new European warehouse in Venlow in The Netherlands as part of a drive to make its business ‘Brexit-proof’ in the wake of uncertainty over the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
The firm has split its distribution business between the UK and Europe to decrease the pressure on its existing UK warehousing and also increase efficiencies for the UK market. With full-time sales reps in Germany and The Netherlands and distribution partners in Denmark,France, Italy, Norway and Slovenia among others, the firm already does a significant amount of business on the continent.
We spoke to sales director, Myles Salmon about his contingency plans and how the firm is changing the way it operates…
Tell us about your operation, how many offices, staff etc. And how much of the business is UK and how much European?
We have one Head office in Essex, two warehouses, one in Norwich and one in Venlo, The Netherlands. We also operate two European showrooms, we use these for product training and displaying products for our European retailers. These are located in The Netherlands and Denmark. Overall Kampa employees 30 members of staff across and a handful of agents and distributers.
At present, our business is a 60:40 split in favour of the UK. We are aiming to shift this to a 50:50 split by end of 2018.
What are your leading products in the outdoor sector?
Our range of lightweight inflatable caravan awnings, inflatable motorhome awnings, and inflatable family tents are our leading products. We also have an excellent accessory and furniture range, which complement our flagship product lines.
What kind of year have you had?
How much is your international business increasing by?
Our international business has been experiencing excellent growth. In fact, I’m very excited to announce that Kampa has been ranked at No 11 in the 4th annual Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100. The Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100 ranks Britain’s 100 small and medium-sized (SME) companies with the fastest-growing international sales over the latest two years.
You’ve been quite vocal about Brexit. Do you fear it will hamper that growth?
We have split our distribution facilities between the UK and Europe, this has not only taken pressure off our existing warehouse facilities but has also increased efficiencies for our British customer base. The Venlo undertaking is our latest step in our ‘Brexit proof strategy’, and after some initial testing (delivering to British customers), shipments have been leaving the Dutch facility across Europe at an ever-increasing rate.
Isn’t the real opportunity in Europe and not the UK anyway?
No, we can only be successful in EU with a strong UK base. Our UK strategy of supporting independent retailers is what helps drive our European business, it’s vital that we gain the trust of independents in Europe like we have done in the UK.
What about the rest of the world are you making plans for increasing international trade elsewhere, given that Europe might not be so easy to trade with in the future?
Yes, we already deal with Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. We have just started to deal in a small way with China, Taiwan and Japan.
Do you think Brexit will actually happen or is there a chance it might be impossible to do without huge harm to the economy?
I think it must because it’s what the people have voted for, I do think though that there will be a slight dip in the economy. But British businesses are very resourceful and there are opportunities elsewhere in the world, should it become more difficult to trade freely with Europe.
Tell us about the camping market. Is it commoditised now and dominated by multiples and online retailers?
The volume market is definitely in highstreet and out of town superstores – both grocery and outdoor specialist. But these tend to be low cost, low quality, low margin product aimed at the low-cost segment of the family camping market. When competing on price, it is very hard for smaller stores to match the economies of scale achieved by these massive firms
However, that’s not all bad news, it gives many more people the opportunity to try camping. What we try to do, through independent outdoor specialists is take that initial experience, and by supplying better products and with the help of our retailers, provide a higher level of customer advice and support, improve their experience so that these people become camping enthusiasts.
What trends do you see in the sector? Where is the opportunity in terms of product?
Well at the moment we are currently finalising products for 2019, so answering that question would put us at a competitive disadvantage! But, what we can say is that we are always trying to innovate and develop award winning products every year. For 2018 we are very proud to have won The Camping and Caravanning Club’s ‘Best Family Tents’ category in the Owner Satisfaction Awards 2018.