Willerby Ltd was established in 1946 by a local entrepreneur who was commissioned to produce temporary buildings in the aftermath of the Second World War. Caravanning as a leisure activity didn’t really take off until the early 1950s by which time Willerby was at the forefront of the industry.
A key player in the region’s thriving caravan and leisure industry
Today, Willerby continues to lead the way in the caravan and leisure industry. In 2016, the company’s annual turnover was £150m and it is anticipated that the turnover for 2017 will reach £160m. Willerby has experienced excellent growth over the last three years and created around 200+ new jobs.
Peter Munk, Chief Executive said; “UK staycations have become more popular in recent years and one of our key target audiences, those aged 55 and over, have access to 25% tax free pension pots. We are seeing more cash-buyers than ever before and the industry is booming.”
The industry has grown significantly over the years, with 80% of the UK’s holiday home market now being manufactured in Hull. Other local manufacturers include Swift Group, Coachman and ABI.
Willerby strives to forge partnerships locally and has long-standing relationships with many local suppliers which the business has developed over the last 20-30 years.
Having a local supply chain is vital for Willerby due to the size of the units and large materials required, as well as the speed at which they produce, with up to 30 holiday homes and lodges leaving the site every day.
A business with its people and product at its core
A skilled workforce is the fabric of Willerby’s continued success, with the business currently employing over 1,000 people at its Hedon Road site, with 800 staff based on frontline production.
Peter Munk said; “We are led by our people and our product - we have a loyal and dedicated workforce who are hugely passionate about product design and manufacture. We are regularly launching innovative products to the market, such as our glamping-inspired modular Hive-Lite range which is hugely popular.”
Willerby has a showground on-site in Hull, and also takes its extensive product range on tour to UK caravan, motorhome and holiday home shows, including the local caravan show held at the Lawns in Cottingham. The showground gives customers and dealers the opportunity to view the stylistic touches and feel the quality of craftsmanship first-hand. This investment was quite a step change for Willerby, which also opened up a Scottish showground in Lanarkshire in 2016.
Willerby Ltd has also designed and produced some ‘magical’ hobbit-style woodland lodges for Alton Towers Enchanted Village, further enhancing its brand and demonstrating it can develop bespoke themed solutions using modular building techniques.
Peter Munk said; “We are the only caravan manufacturer to have a full marketing department. Our mindset is now different, 50% of our SLT are female which is incredibly rare in the caravan manufacturing industry. We aim to be not just the best caravan manufacturer, but rather the best manufacturer in the UK. We are a people and product led company.”
Willerby Ltd invested over £1m in 2016 on their 90 acre site, in order to aid capacity and increase outputs, converting and expanding a factory and introducing a new lodge production line in addition to their existing five production lines.
Homage to the company’s heritage
Originally manufacturing beehives, Willerby was set up in 1946 to produce temporary buildings to help deal with the aftermath of the Second World War.
Embracing its historical legacy, the company now has the WillerBee as its company mascot. With the UK’s bumblebee population rapidly declining, Willerby is helping to raise awareness of this by supporting its conservation.
Some of the innovative projects it is delivering include sourcing bee-friendly wildflower seeds and distributing them to employees, suppliers and customers for planting, as well as to the many local primary schools, hospitals and prisons in our region. The campaign is off to an incredible start with 20,000 packets of seeds having been distributed so far.
Willerby is also working closely with HMP Prison Hull, with prisoners attending joinery classes at the prison to produce handcrafted wooden bee-houses for the campaign as part of their rehabilitation process.
Last year Willerby celebrated its 70th anniversary and today the business continues its ethos to invest in its products, showgrounds and most of all its people, continually growing the company’s own talent and benefiting from the loyalty that comes with that.