Denbighshire manufacturer sets sights on international growth

A Denbighshire manufacturer of luxury touring caravans sold all over the world has announced plans to grow the business through an ambitious new exports strategy with support from the Welsh Government

Fifth Wheel Co, which employs 52 people at its base in Rhuallt, designs and builds luxury fifth wheel caravan tourers, often referred to as ‘penthouses on wheels’, which retail between £70-120k.

The company, which already exports to over 15 countries, including Germany, France, Switzerland, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and New Zealand, has set its sights on growing its global presence by expanding in Europe and targeting Asia as a new market.

Established 20 years ago, the family-run business initially started out importing Fifth Wheel RVs from America, before switching to produce similar, higher quality vehicles in-house at its North Wales base. It is now the only manufacturer of EU compliant Fifth Wheel tourers in Europe.

Exports currently account for 25% of its trade and the company hopes to double this figure to 50% in the next two years by expanding its dealer network across the globe. The firm has dealers in Germany, Norway and France but aims to secure another five across Europe by the end of 2023, including in Denmark and Poland, as well as a second dealer in France.

It is also looking to enter new territories including Asia, and is currently in talks with a Korean dealer.

Dave Robinson, Design Manager at Fifth Wheel Co said: “We have ambitious plans to get another five dealers on board across Europe over the next two years to boost our sales across the continent. Moving away from selling to customers directly to instead selling via dealers will offer us a more consistent pipeline of sales and will enable us to focus more of our time and resources on improving the efficiency of the manufacturing process.

“We are currently in talks with a Korean dealer which would introduce us to a completely new market. Expanding into Asia is particularly exciting for us as we’ve started to notice a lot more Asian suppliers at the trade shows we’ve been attending, so we’re expecting the market for luxury caravans in the region to boom and so we want to get in early.”

Dave credits the firm’s international outlook for its growth over the last two decades, as well as its resilience during the pandemic.

He said: “Exporting has provided us with exponential opportunities for growth and has been critical in helping sustain us through the pandemic. Pre-Covid, the majority of our customer base was in the UK but following the outbreak, we found that the domestic market for our tourers stagnated due to a combination of UK lockdowns and our high product value. It was hard to get customers to commit to new purchases when they couldn’t travel to view products in person due to restrictions – virtual viewings can only go so far with a product range in excess of £70,000!

“However, our export sales have remained resilient, particularly in Germany – our largest international market – where the leisure industry has continued to boom. Our German dealer provided us with consistent business over the last year that has helped to keep us going.

“By having dealers across a good geographical spread, we have ensured that we are not wholly dependent on just one marketplace. Not having all your eggs in one basket, right through your supply chains and your final markets, ensures you can mitigate any risk by having a contingency plan at the ready should unforeseen circumstances arise.”

Vital to Fifth Wheel’s export growth has been support from the Welsh Government’s export specialists, via Business Wales, to access not only financial aid but advice on potential markets and partnerships.

Dave added: “The Welsh Government’s export team provided Fifth Wheel with background research on dealers and businesses who were interested in partnering with us, which helped us reach new markets and accelerate our export journey. Their support has been vital to our international strategy and we wouldn’t be where we are now without it.”