September 1 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
A Norfolk firm is poised to nearly double its small staff and move into bigger premises to cope with the ‘glamping’ demand for its shepherds’ huts.
The Rackheath-based English Shepherds Hut Company, which recently sold one of its luxury camping homes to actress Elizabeth Hurley, has seen business take off since it launched its pioneering ‘glampaign’.
Company founder Craig Nield, 52, said: “Alongside our sales we decided to offer our shepherds’ huts to campsites at no capital cost, covering our investment with a 50-50 rental share scheme which minimises risk to the campsite.
“The ‘glampaign’ has taken off tremendously well with both well-known campsites such as Deepdale Backpackers in North Norfolk as well as start-up campsites such as the one at Whitlingham Broad in Norwich which launched last year with huge success.”
While they had initially focused on Norfolk after launching the initiative 14 months ago, they had since spread their efforts beyond East Anglia.
He said: “We are supplying huts to a number of campsites as far afield as Yorkshire, and are even getting inquiries from places as distant as Sweden.”
With demand for the huts, which sleep two to four people, growing all the time, the company will be moving in the coming weeks to new premises three times the size next to Oyster Yachts in Tunstead Road, Hoveton.
Father of four Mr Nield said: “Until now I have got by with a part-timer in the office and two other construction guys; I am now looking to take on an additional two staff with a carpentry or boatbuilding background.”
Mr Nield, who started out as a graduate construction engineer, spent nearly a decade in France as a property developer before the family decided to move back to the UK in 2010.
He said: “Three years ago I started a company called Timberpad making high-end garden studios and offices.
“The new venture came about 18 months ago when my wife Lucy said, ‘why don’t you build a shepherd’s hut?’.
“We built it, took pictures for the website and the response has been amazing ever since.”
He said they were still looking for two more campsites in East Anglia to take huts for this season.
“After that we don’t want to saturate the market and will limit it to 20 huts at campsites across East Anglia,” he said.
Future plans include the construction of log cabin-style amenity blocks for campsites.
He said: “Having visited many campsites and read many reviews we recognise that often the weakest points of any site are the amenity facilities. We have developed very attractive log cabin amenity blocks, again on a lease or purchase basis.”
Mr Nield said he was also looking at launching a second production site in France to cash in on the strong continental market.
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Norfolk entrepreneur Stephen Pitkethly will be realising his father-in-law’s dream when he launches an innovative craft at the Southampton Boat Show next month.