There is an obvious slowdown in the caravanning industry and it is probably not the result of the pre-Christmas lull. We asked Łukasz Złotnicki, owner of Campery Złotniccy , which has been operating in the caravanning industry since 2010 as a professional service, rental company and seller of campers of various brands.
The pandemic and subsequent year was a bountiful year for the industry, despite some supply chain and availability issues. How do you assess the situation year-on-year?
The years 2020 and 2021 were a boom, of course, dictated mainly by pandemic-related conditions. We observed great interest in renting and purchasing new cars, and many customers also bought used campers and trailers - both domestic and foreign.
We saw this especially in the traffic on our website. Many people were unable to cope with minor repairs or servicing and sought our help. This gave us some idea of the scale.
It should be noted that the fashion for campers and the mobile lifestyle was also determined by phenomenal media exposure - caravanning, as the only form of recreation away from home, seemed to escape restrictions and prohibitions. It was a kind of snowball effect. Suddenly, many entrepreneurs wanted to invest and enter the camper rental market .
In 2022, several phenomena took place - pandemic restrictions were lifted, we observed hotels opening for the first time in a long time, and the full availability of air connections and freedom of travel changed the rules of the game.
The alternative of an all-inclusive holiday was previously unavailable or difficult to access for a long time. Suddenly in 2022, due to the lack of demand, the supply of vehicles purchased with the intention of renting for profit in 2020 and 2021 increased. The owners of these cars used various intermediary platforms and began to resort to all means to "catch" the customer. However, the demand decreased significantly, which turned out to be an insurmountable obstacle for many.
What's next for the recreational vehicle industry? What is the mood in Europe?
Problems with the supply of base cars had and continue to have an extremely serious impact on the situation. Delays and lack of deliveries of Fiat Ducato have had an impact on the market situation, especially in our western neighbors. Fiat has not delivered the contracted quantities of vehicles for two years in a row and we already know that it will not meet its obligations in 2023 either.
More manufacturers are looking for alternatives and reaching for other solutions. Poland is a specific market due to fiscal regulations - the vast majority of our sales are campers based on Ford. Due to the market situation, leading European camper manufacturers, such as the Hymer group, also apologized to Ford. The brands Etrusco, Dethleffs and Bürstner, which are part of it, have already started offering models on this platform - this has never happened before.
There is a frantic search for new replacements for the Ducato - and so other manufacturers are increasingly leaving, for example Renault or Mercedes. But the possibilities of these producers are not endless.
The deficit and limited production capacity had to eventually lead to price increases, and that's what finally happened. Subsequent changes in price lists make us wonder whether they are really dictated by actual increases in production costs, or whether the idea is to economically shorten this business in the face of supply problems and sell less but at a higher price.
Personally, I have serious concerns about the Polish market. The Roller Team Zefiro campers we offer, which have been selling well so far, cost PLN 240,000-250,000 not so long ago. net.
Currently, with the introduction of the 2023 collection to the offer, we are approaching the ceiling, often even reaching PLN 330,000. This may prove to be an insurmountable barrier for many potential customers.
An additional element that has an unfavorable impact on the economic situation is undoubtedly the uncertainty and sociological and psychological aspects related to the proximity of an armed conflict right on our borders.
From our perspective, we can already see that in the next few years, more and more brands and models of campers will be built on Ford chassis - which is optimal for us due to the low excise tax on the sale of campers.
The last years belonged to Roller Team, Benimar and Caravans International, or Chausson. They had 2-liter chassis and were still reasonably priced. These brands will certainly continue to develop, but they will be outdone by Giottiline, Bürstner and Dethleffs - this is the market for low-excise campers with higher prices.
Competition between brands will ensure that sales records such as those seen recently will no longer be repeated. Sungliht and Carado will also be more and more bold in this segment.
On a European scale, 6-7 producer groups will be most important in the coming years. Manufacturers remain optimistic for now, but well-developed markets that constitute the sales core of the largest players, such as Germany and Italy, will also eventually feel some turbulence, if they haven't seen it yet.
Due to the reduced demand for new campers, how can companies in the industry survive this upcoming difficult period?
The "sales harvest" will not repeat itself so quickly for a long time, and indeed it will certainly be a more difficult time for everyone, both in terms of sales volume and business profitability. I believe that the future belongs to the website.
Campers have much greater service needs than popular passenger cars. Repairs, retrofitting and ongoing services are essential. The caravanning industry in Poland does not yet fully appreciate that this market is opening up and does not invest in these service opportunities as much as it should.
Building a sales base is difficult, but preparing a website is 3-4 times more difficult. It is both time-consuming and capital-intensive. The payback period for this investment is much longer.
For customers - following the example of our western neighbors - the decisive factor in purchasing a new camper from a specific dealer will be the service service. We can already see how crowded the camper service is, and the development of infrastructure in this area has not caught up with the development of the car sales market in recent years and will not catch up for a long time.
Are you saying that we may even have problems with servicing motorhomes within the authorized dealer network?
Over time, we may even observe scenarios that are widely reported abroad - the practice of not servicing cars purchased from other dealers is simply a competitive tool. Why is it like that? Once again, we must emphasize that the technical and service potential is lower than the demand for this type of services. Campervan service customers who did not buy a car from a given dealership due to its limited processing capacity may necessarily be pushed to the end of the queue.
Dealers do not really care about every service customer, but about maintaining high quality of service for the contractors they take care of from the moment they buy the car.
Another important aspect that already appears to be a potential problem is the settlement of motor claims. There are more and more campers, and in road traffic (like any car) they are subject to various types of bumps and collisions. This type of repair requires much greater expenditure on service facilities and on a national scale there are few points where such damage can be repaired in accordance with the manufacturer's technology.
Let's return to the topic of rentals - what does the future hold for this market in Poland?
I believe that the recently publicized bankruptcy of Camptoo will make individual clients be wary of agents and all types of intermediary platforms. This will make it difficult for "home" rental companies to develop and acquire customers. In a nutshell - in my opinion, we will face a more or less slow "reset" to the situation in 2019 - I expect that there will be approximately 20-30 entities on the Polish market with 10 or more cars in their fleets.
What are your thoughts on the situation of trade fairs in Poland? This topic seems to heat up the community like no other.
I agree with what the industry says - there should not be two large trade fairs one after the other in the fall . This is completely unnecessary and is the result of competition between two organizers who do not want to reach an agreement.
Spring and autumn fairs are the right direction, but this year there was an obvious difference in quality between the events in favor of the event in Poznań. If the organizer of the fair in Nadarzyn takes no action, no major national player will appear there again.
Attendance is a result of the organization of the fair itself, the organization of the rally and recognition among suppliers. This year's fair in Nadarzyn did not convince us - the exhibitors, or the caravanning community.
After this year's successful edition of the summer fair in Służewiec, the Polish Caravanning Group plans to permanently introduce another, third event in the season to its calendar. Although we liked this year's event, each event of this type involves huge costs for exhibitors - and these will be under very strict control for most companies in the industry in the near future.
What do Złotniccy's development plans look like?
The key aspect that we focus on will be, as I have already mentioned , the development of the website and infrastructure. Despite everything, we try to develop our sales activities and the portfolio of represented brands.
We are currently developing the infrastructure of the existing facility and expanding the scope of maintenance services we offer. We train our staff so that they can serve customers even more professionally.
Of course, we are constantly working on the project of building our new headquarters, which will double our service potential.
Thank you for the conversation, we wish you business development and completion of construction.
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.