Despite changing relatively little over the last 35 years, the humble ‘pop-top’ camper trailer remains one of the most popular choices when it comes to buyers of new RVs.
That’s the story at least from Victoria’s biggest Jayco dealer, Page Bros RV, which sells up to 300 of the affordable ‘wind-up’ campers each year from its massive 28,500 square metre dealership in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Seaford.
While demand has dropped off for top-end luxury motorhomes since the Global Financial Crisis, entry-level camper trailers and budget caravans like the Starcraft and
family-focussed Expanda are selling like hotcakes at Page Bros, according to general manager Steven Page.
Also driving the budget end of the market is the increasing number of younger people and families who are choosing to go on camping holidays.
“My friends used to see (caravanning) as a bit of a joke when they were younger, but now that they’re parents they’re doing it,” Mr Page said.
“A lot of younger people are getting into it... they start off with something small to get into the swing of it and then buy something bigger and take off around Australia.
“A big percentage of the population want to take off around Australia, it’s something that’s ingrained in our society I guess.”
While the increased comforts and conveniences of modern caravans are a drawcard, some of the latest innovations have proved more popular than others. For example, Page Bros has seen more buyer interest so far in expensive new options like the ‘double slide outs’ available on both Sterling vans and motorhomes, than Jayco's $1000 electric winch option for camper trailers or $3000 automotive-style painted bodywork (see photo of Sterling van).
“That’s what’s selling the best, the models with the two slide-outs,” he said. “It’s a form of Americanisation I guess, giving people plenty of space inside. Pretty much every caravan we sell has a slide-out, they love them.”
As one of Australia’s most successful as well as oldest caravan dealers, Page Bros accounts for one in 10 Jayco RVs sold each year in Australia. The dealership wouldn’t divulge exact figures, but it equates to about 900 sales a year based on Jayco annual production of 9000-plus units.
Page Bros has operated on the same site since the 1960s when Steven’s dad, Trevor and his brother (who is no longer part of the business) started selling used caravans.
As a dealer for Sunwagon among other brands, Trevor Page met Jayco founder Gerry Ryan, who was working in Sunwagon’s factory at the time. A year after Jayco commenced manufacturing in 1975 Page Bros became one of the first Jayco dealers.
The modern dealership now covers three blocks, with the front fence alone measuring 200m. The space is big enough to display around 180 new RVs (not to mention 200 used vans), including examples of every current Jayco caravan, motorhome, pop-top, camper and toy hauler, as well as most layouts and options.
“Everything’s represented. We don’t have the single bed version and the double bed version, but we’ve got everything they do,” he said.
As buyers have become more discerning, he says it’s important to offer a one-stop shop, and with 40 staff on site, indoor and outdoor displays, a huge spare parts and accessories section and large workshop, few visitors would leave disappointed.
“Everyone expects that now when they buy a caravan. They expect to get finance, insurance, parts...” he says.
While Steven has taken over day-to-day operations, his now 75-year old father still spends two or three days a week on-site, although that could change soon.
Trevor Page recently took delivery of a range-topping Jayco Optimum motorhome, with “two slide-outs, satellite and all the good gear”, which he plans to drive to Queensland.