More than 50 jobs set to go at caravan giant Swift

More than 50 jobs could go at Hull caravan giant Swift Group.

The Cottingham-based operation is restructuring ahead of a return to manufacturing in September.

Building has been suspended from the day lockdown was announced in March, and now numbers are being cut back as it seeks to cut costs to deal with a significant period of lost orders.

Dealerships and sales showgrounds have also been shuttered since March 23, with campsites and holiday parks only just re-opening.

Swift is now looking to bring back production on September 1, but with a 5 per cent cut to the workforce – though the management team harbour hopes of greater demand to come.

James Turner, managing director of the 56-year-old business, said the caravan industry is sales-led and without the ability and willingness of customers to buy, there has been little or no demand for additional products to be manufactured.

 “It is with much regret that we find ourselves in this situation due to these unprecedented times,” he said.

Swift Caravans, Cottingham
(Image: Northcliffe Media Ltd)

“We will work closely with our employees over the coming weeks to ensure there is strong and considerate communication throughout and that any action we take is done so responsibly and professionally, and with the utmost dignity and respect for all those involved.”

The majority of staff remain on furlough, with only customer-facing “essential services” operating. 

“Without doubt the financial support provided through the government’s Job Retention Scheme has enabled the company to weather the intervening period,” Mr Turner said.

“The longer term outlook for the industry is positive; with hygiene and safety a major concern for people leading to greater consideration of a staycation holiday rather than travelling abroad.”

An increase in interest has been seen from a wider proportion of the population, “but it will inevitably take time for this interest to convert into sales,” he said.

“Despite the opportunity there still lies ahead a challenging and uncertain period, and undoubtedly the ongoing implications of Covid-19 will continue to impact on the caravan industry, and the UK economy at large.”

Happier times: James Turner, right, with group finance director Richard Smeaton, when Swift was named as a Top Track 250 business back in 2017.
Happier times: James Turner, right, with group finance director Richard Smeaton, when Swift was named as a Top Track 250 business back in 2017.

He added that the actions are to “ensure that the business and as many jobs as possible are protected for the longer term”.

Coronavirus hit after a tough 2019 for the industry. Swift had seen turnover tumble and profits halved as political uncertainty over Brexit ate into consumer confidence. Turnover dropped 9 per cent from £287.7 million to £260.9 million in the year to September, with profit down from £20.1 million in 2018 to £9.6 million.

A factory in Sheffield was closed, with a six per cent reduction in staff over that period, with operations consolidated on Dunswell Road.

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