Along with a passion for the product and a willingness to walk and talk with their customers, innovation and business savvy have helped make Complete Campsite one of the best known brands in the Australian camper trailer market.
When company owners Grant and Jodie Joyce took over the business there was only one softfloor model, but today there are nine models in the range: four softfloors (the Jabiru, Kakadu and Uluru), two hardfloors (the Fraser and Byron) and four Exodus ‘hybrids’, so named because they bridge the gap between a genuine offroad camper and a luxury offroad caravan.
Complete Campsite was the first to introduce a softfloor model costing more than $40,000, lauded by the industry as paving the way for more high-end camper trailers. The company was also the first to introduce hot water systems in a softfloor model, and first to offer a range of campers fulfilling the needs of many different buyers and budgets.
This is a point of pride with the company. “All our products can be fully customised,” Grant said, “which means that anyone who buys one of our campers can personalise it to suit their tastes. They don’t miss out on anything they might find useful, and they don’t have to pay for features they don’t need.”
Complete Campsite has won every industry award on the table for production excellence and innovation. It has also excelled in competitions where its product has been compared with that of the opposition. For example, in Camper Trailer Australia’s Camper of the Year awards, the Exodus has never been beaten in the hybrid class.
But don’t imagine that this successful enterprise appeared suddenly and took no time at all to dominate the market.
Jodie and Grant had been the friends and travelling companions of Mark and Michelle Cole, the couple who started Complete Campsite in 1991. In 2003, the Coles decided they needed a lifestyle change and made plans to travel around Australia. Part of that plan was to sell the business first. Fortunately for them, Jodie and Grant were also looking for a lifestyle change and, after discussing it with the Coles, decided that buying Complete Campsite would be a good move.
The new owners took over in April 2004. They had no fixed long-term written plan for the business, and, in the beginning, there were only four of them: Grant, Jodie, a welder and a sewer, all working out of a 400m² building.
But where the previous owners had been making maybe one camper a fortnight, pretty soon the new owners were turning out a camper a week and coming up with improvements to make the product better. And this momentum has continued, powered by dedication to duty.
“I believe we have an eye for detail,” Grant said, with a tinge of pride. “We live in and test our products in a range of environments, which shows us clearly what features are required in a self-
sufficient offroad camper that spends much of its life in remote areas.”
The pair was obviously making the smart commercial decisions about what a softfloor should look and feel like. Their confidence manifested in growing sales, and finally a need for more factory space. Today, after relocating three times, Complete Campsite occupies a 4000m² building in Lisarow on New South Wales’ Central Coast.
The company also has in place a “lean manufacturing” program to reduce waste in materials and time, and every camper produced is compliant with Australian standards.
A commitment at Complete Campsite is to retain all design and manufacture within Australia. “Not just to keep the jobs here”, said Jodie, “but to keep on top of quality control.”
Essentially, the only products not made in-house are the fibreglass Exodus shells (manufactured in Newcastle, NSW), the independent Cruisemaster suspension (manufactured by Vehicle Components), the tough Aussie canvas from Wax Converters, various electrical components and all the fittings associated with gas and hot water. All metal fabrication is done in-house, as is the sewing and painting.
ENTER THE EXODUS
The company’s policy of talking to the customer isn’t a hollow slogan, either. “We wouldn’t be where we are now had we not listened to our customers and talked with them about the product,” Jodie said. In fact, talking to customers led to the acquisition of Exodus in 2010.
“The Exodus is the latest addition to our line-up”, Grant said. “We started making these so-called hybrids after talking to some of our older customers. They were telling us that, as they got older, they didn’t want to deal with canvas any more, that putting up campers manually was getting too much for them and that they needed something simpler and less physical to deal with. A lot of them were thinking about buying a small caravan.
“It was as though we had this loyal customer base that loved our product but needed something with their changing requirements in mind. In a nutshell, we believed that if we had the right product for these customers, they’d be buying it from us instead of going somewhere else to buy some sort of caravan, which wouldn’t do the job anywhere near as well as an offroad camper trailer”.
Grant said they could see the potential in Exodus. “It was a monocoque design (formed in one piece with no seams or joins) and although it was tough, it needed a lot of work to refine it. Jodie and I knew that if we could get our hands on it, the Exodus would probably be very successful for us.”
That was prescient. The couple purchased Exodus in 2010, which gave them enough time to ‘refine the product’ and have it ready just as the hybrid market achieved escape velocity.
This encouraged Complete Campsite to design and build 11ft and 14ft models, and now new 9 and 16-footers. Exodus variants now outsell their hard and softfloor models, and offer a surprising range of customisation.
“The loyalty in our brand is evident in the number of repeat customers we have,” Jodie said. “It’s not unusual for some of our customers to be onto their fourth or fifth Complete Campsite trailer. We’re very proud of that.
Check out the full feature in issue #89 June 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.