CarGO! and market development - industry in the eyes of an expert (part 1)
The end of the year is the perfect time to sum up. We had the opportunity to talk to the manager of CarGO! Pomerania , Witold Tłuchowski. Witek is not only a passionate traveler, but also an undisputed authority in the caravanning world. In an extensive conversation, he told us about the company's development, plans for the future as well as the current problems and challenges facing the industry. We invite you to read!
Interview with Witold Tłuchowski
The end of the year is usually the time for summaries and evaluations. How do you rate these recent seasons on the caravanning market for your company?
CarGO! Pomorze, which is one of the companies belonging to the CarGO! Group, is a young company. It started operating in February 2019. Thanks to the trust that I have developed in private relations with the managers of the largest caravan manufacturer in the world, i.e. the HOBBY company, I received a proposal to open a dealership in the region of northern Poland. I was wondering how to use this opportunity and implement it. Having a broad understanding of the industry and knowledge of the potential of individual companies, I turned to Mariusz and Radek Gogulski to create something new together: a strong company with development potential, which would have a chance to be successful in a short time. We have known each other privately for many years, I watched their difficult path in building a company on the caravanning market, which 10 years ago looked completely different in Poland. A niche market is probably the correct definition of what they were dealing with in 2009-2015.
The combination of my many years of experience in business with their recognizable CarGO brand! allowed us to develop a model of cooperation and the creation of a real group, which is intended to integrate several independent companies in the caravanning and recreation industry. I assumed, together with my partners, that our activity as CarGO! Pomerania will develop quickly, but I think only I was optimistic about such a rapid development. The company is the fulfillment of my dream: combining work and business with a fascination with the automotive industry and being an active caravanning driver. Today I am in an industry that I love and where work is pure pleasure.
In a short time, it was possible to open a professional point of sale and, above all, to create a solid service base. This plan quickly gave us the effects of starting the sale of HOBBY trailers in Wejherowo with a wide range of retrofitting options. We sold the first trailers in May 2019. By the end of August 2019, there were already 20 Hobby vehicles sold.
The key moment for the company was the Caravans Salon fair in Poznań in September 2019. The stand of the CarGO Group! had an area of over 1800 m2 and we presented 30 vehicles on it. For the first time as CarGO! Pomorze - an authorized dealer, we showed HOBBY caravans and campers. The success of this fair was our driving force for further sales development. I remember the expression on Mariusz Gogulski's face when he saw that for the 2019/2020 season I had placed an order at the HOBBY factory for over 50 vehicles. Everyone had some concerns as to whether we were acting too quickly and optimistic. Life has shown that it was a key moment for our company - a secured contingent of vehicles gave us an advantage in the market.
Another development step for CarGO! Pomerania was the inclusion of ADRIA vehicles in the offer - from January 2020 we became an authorized dealer of the ADRIA brand in Poznań and Wejherowo. The second brand appeared with us practically at the time of the outbreak of the pandemic.
How was it for CarGO! Pomerania and your entire group from the outbreak of the pandemic until today?
For the entire CarGO Group! it was a period of titanic work, but crowned with considerable success. After the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, our first reactions were that either this situation would completely freeze the market, or we would expect a dynamic leap forward for the entire industry. Personally, from the very beginning, I was a supporter of the thesis that if any form of rest is defended during the lockdown, it will be traveling with my own home on wheels.
It must also be honestly said that the Polish market was very small until 2020 compared to even the average markets in Western Europe. The first positive signals were already in 2015-2018, but overall it was still a fledgling industry in Poland.
The outbreak of the pandemic, educational and promotional activities conducted by the professional press, industry portals, the activities of PGC and the dealers themselves, as well as the boom in caravanning, which was driven by social media as a form of spending time in a pandemic among our potential customers, led to an explosion in the market.
After 3-4 weeks of hesitation, everything started and we couldn't keep up with the deliveries of caravans and motorhomes, which were then easily available from producers. Western Europe stopped and we moved on. We closed the 2019/2020 season in August 2020 with record sales of both motorhomes and (and perhaps above all) caravans. After one and a half years of operation, CarGO! Pomerania achieved the best sales of HOBBY vehicles on the Polish market (78 units). We have become a leader. We had a very successful start in the 2020/2021 season thanks to the only industry fair that took place at the end of September in Poznań (Caravans Salon 2020). We implemented the plan for this season in 100% and at the end of July 2021 we were again awarded the HOBBY dealer of the year in Poland.
The sale of ADRIA vehicles was also record-breaking. All in all, the 2020/2021 season in CarGO! We closed Pomerania with over 130 vehicles sold. Among them there were gems - for example luxurious ADRIA ASTELLA caravans . It was a very exhausting season. Suffice it to say that at its peak (April-May 2021), we issued 20 HOBBY and ADRIA vehicles retrofitted in our service in Wejherowo. It was a huge effort of our service technicians who met this challenge working 12 hours and 6 days a week. The entire CarGO Group! achieved record sales for all brands that we represent on the Polish market. There has been a huge leap in the sale of FRANKIA brand vehicles - i.e. luxury motorhomes with a GVM area of 3500kg. The budget brand Challenger was also very successful, and PILOTE became one of the most recognizable brands on the market.
How do you rate the beginning of the 2021/2022 season?
Due to pandemic conditions, this season looked very difficult from the very beginning. Not because of concerns about the sale of vehicles, but rather because of their availability. Our orders placed with factories in February and March 2021 have been significantly reduced.
Both HOBBY and CHAUSSON as well as Grupa PILOTE and ADRIA have seriously reduced our record orders. Despite these reductions, the number of vehicles we have for this season is still substantial. CarGO! Pomerania has offered customers over 140 vehicles for this season. The plans were definitely bigger, but this is what the realities of the market look like.
Caravanning in Poland has gained record popularity and it seems that this is not a seasonal choke on the freedom of traveling, but a constant trend. This gives the industry a perspective of stability that has certainly been lacking so far. Market signals are very positive.
Have sales started normally in the 2021/2022 season? How do you rate the effectiveness of the fairs in Poznań and Nadarzyn?
Sales in the 2021/2022 season started already in June. Today, customers are well informed about the problems with vehicle availability and did not wait for the fair. Already in the period June-September 2021, they placed orders for vehicles. Record holders ordered trailers, which will be available in May or June 2022. The CARAVANS SALON fair in Poznań was very successful for our entire Group. We sold over 35 vehicles directly during this event. We finalized many more transactions right after the fair. Our stand - over 1,900 m2 - was one of the most attractive. The number of vehicles on display was also record-breaking. As CarGO! In Pomerania, we presented 12 trailers of the HOBBY and ADRIA brands and - for the first time as the official dealer of the MORELO brand - the PALACE 93 LSB model, which at the fair found a buyer and attracted crowds.
The fair in Nadarzyn turned out to be quite a challenge. As CarGO! Pomerania, we had our hands full at the HOBBY brand factory stand, at the same time taking care of the ADRIA and MORELO as well as FRANKIA, PILOTE and CHAUSSON exhibition at the CarGO! Group stand. The result was extremely satisfying - we sold another dozen motorhomes and over 20 caravans. There was still disgust due to the fact that the organization of the fair in Nadarzyn was too close to those in Poznań. This situation is not conducive to effective work and deserves a negative assessment. After all, the Nadarzyn fair was held regularly in the second half of October.
Morelo brand in CarGO! Pomerania
The CarGO offer! Pomerania recently, ultra-luxurious motorhomes of the German company MORELO are available. How do you rate the current interest in the brand on the part of customers and its sales potential?
We became an authorized representative of the MORELO brand in November 2020. Virtually in the middle of a pandemic, without the possibility of full technical and commercial training. Everything was done only on-line. The choice of MORELO as our most luxurious brand was dictated by a very large increase in customer interest in the FRANKIA brand. It is also a very luxurious brand, but more affordable for the average customer. Customers who appreciate the FRANKIA brand are, in our opinion, also future potential customers for even more luxurious vehicles.
Entering the world of MORELO, we entered a land unknown to us so far, but with enormous potential. Thanks to the canceled trade fair in Stuttgart in January 2021, we were able to buy the first, ready-made MORELO model - right from the PALACE series - perfectly configured. With this model, we started promoting the brand and actively selling it on the market. After a year of operation, I can confidently say that it was a very good step in the development of our company and the entire Group. Our brand portfolio is now full.
Coming back to the assessment of our market potential in terms of the MORELO brand, it is enough to mention that in the first year of our activity, we sold 3 different MORELO vehicles: two from the PALACE series and one from the PALACE LINER . I consider it a great success. We have also ordered another 2 exhibition campers for 2022 - LOFT and PALACE. Detailed offers will soon hit the market. Sales could certainly be higher, but the availability of vehicles and long delivery times are starting to deter customers. When ordering today a PALACE or PALACE LINER series vehicle with a garage for a car, we have to wait for collection until the end of the third quarter of 2023. EMPIRE LINER models will be available later. It is a bit better with the LOFT and HOME models. It is a difficult time for us, dealers and customers. We all need to be patient and keep working.
The rest of the interview will follow soon. Stay tuned!
|Author of the article: Maciej Kinal The article was prepared in cooperation with CarGO! Rent a Camp|
I feel best in the form of trade fairs and meetings with enthusiasts. Technical freak. In my life I have dismantled many motorhomes for the first time. Fan of large vehicles, mountain biking and traveling without weight and financial restrictions. At CampRest, I am responsible for all publications on automotive topics.