The fact that Kelsey Publishing dispensed with its Lodge of the Year Award after just three years because Pathfinder Homes won the accolade each and every time, gives some indication of the level the Devon-based business is operating at.
“We were obviously delighted with our triple success in winning the award, which was run in association with the Park Home & Holiday Caravan Magazine, as it showed that the innovation, the quality and the style of our designs are at the forefront of lodge development,” outlines Bruce MacDonald, Managing Director. “It was also a reflection of the high environmental standards we adhere to when producing our units, particularly in terms of U-values, efficiency and double-glazing. They ran the competition for three years and we managed to win it each time, which was fantastic. Unfortunately the other lodge manufacturers weren’t quite so pleased, so Kelsey Publishing [KM2] took the decision to stop the award.”
Despite having one less award to compete for, Pathfinder Homes hasn’t waivered in its quest to deliver the best holiday lodges and park homes it can, as it strives to build further on a reputation that has been built up since it was established in 1958. Due to its growth the company now operates from two adjacent sites in Heathfield near Newton Abbott.
“Our flair for innovation has underpinned our approach over the years and we’re constantly looking at ways to improve, whether it’s in terms of the design or the standard of the materials we install into the lodges,” adds Mr MacDonald. “We’re especially focused on being as environmentally-conscious as we can be, by having zero waste going to landfill and ensuring that the lodges are fully insulated, for example. We generally build lodges to a standard called BS3632, which is the minimum requirement for residential park homes. We, however, are always looking to improve each year to the extent that we far exceed the BS3632 standards.
“We’re now beginning to put SMART products within the lodges and park homes as well, such as charging points for electric cars. We’re always at the forefront of innovation and new products that are constantly coming through into the marketplace. This is what keeps us ahead of the game.”
Another key strength of Pathfinder Homes is that over the course of the past three decades it has developed a reliable supply chain to underpin its quality-led approach. “We have been working with many of our suppliers for over 20 years. Having these long term relationships in place has been very beneficial and our suppliers help us to keep abreast of the latest products.”
This ability to keep its finger on the pulse has been particularly important as Pathfinder Homes aims to make the most of the available opportunities for growth, while at the same time helping to contend with the challenges it is currently facing, such as the dreaded B-word, which has been something of a mixed bag for the business. “Brexit has been a double-edged sword,” explains Mr MacDonald. “On the residential side it tends to follow the housing market, which has become a bit stagnant, so things have become slightly quieter in this regard.
“On the flipside, because of Brexit we’re seeing a rise in the number of people holidaying within the UK that are looking for good quality places to go for their weekend and long term breaks. As a consequence, this side of the business remains very buoyant. We’re therefore concentrating a bit more on the lodge market during the course of this year, although of course, every home we build is built to residential standard the design has to adapt to meet the purpose of the home.
“As part of a growing trend, parks have been increasingly improving their facilities and providing better accommodation, so we’re ideally placed to meet this growing requirement for better quality, higher standard products.”
Another area Pathfinder Homes is seeing growth is the office sector, where there has been a surge in demand. “We’ve completed a number of good-sized offices in recent years that have been between 2,500 and 3,000 sq ft. This is an area we’ve been increasingly focusing on, as well as the garden pod market, which is becoming ever more popular as people work from home more or look to install a yoga studio or gym in their back garden.”
With plenty of different sectors to focus on, Pathfinder Homes has been keen to keep innovating in order to maximise the potential that each market is offering. For instance, this year it launched a completely new product, the floating lodge. “We spent quite a considerable amount of time last year putting the design together and costing it up,” says Mr MacDonald. “We’ve now launched the concept, which can go on canals and lakes, and we’ve received a massive amount of interest. We’re now picking up orders quite rapidly. One of the advantages of the home is that planning is easier to achieve on water as opposed to land.
“Also during the course of last year, we built a fully accessible lodge for disabled people. Following its launch, sales of the pod are really beginning to pick up. There’s a huge market for accessibility holidays and this has been reflected in our sales.
“Another area we’re looking at is designing a fully self-contained lodge that doesn’t need to be connected to any utilities such as water, electric and sewerage facilities, so it’s completely off-grid. This is still in the design phase and we’re building the prototype at the moment so it will be our next big launch towards the end of the year. The major shows are coming up so we’ll have lots of opportunity to demonstrate our latest products and prototypes that we’ve got coming through.”
With an ever-growing product range, it’s clear that Pathfinder Home’s flair for innovation isn’t showing any signs of diminishing any time yet. Such an approach will undoubtedly lead to further growth and award recognition.