Saturday, 10 December 2011

Micro Level Trends – UK Niche Industry (Part 3) – National Economic Revitalisation via Miles of Smiles


Having reviewed in Part 1 the general dynamics of a resurgent motor-caravanning market, altered through changing socio-demographics and commercial reaction, and in Part 2 an overview of the UK's traditional camper-van & motor-home producers, set in the context of foreign competition and the competitive advantage of technology advancement.

This final section looks at the possible opportunity for the UK to initiate a path toward improved nation-wide economic well-being assisted by ecologically orientated technological solutions.

Very basically, such efforts would consist of the following:

- Improved fortunes for the sector at large by becoming greater aligned to social change.
- A new era of marque differentiation & focus via technical innovation
- Opportunity for an “Eco-Tech Ripple” toward seasonal-use and mainstream housing sectors.
- Exploitation of the Camping Economy as Eco-Tech 'Starter Motor'
- Stepped Programme of Eco-Tech Scale-Up for National Economic Re-Vitalisation

Market Connection -

As noted in Part 1, the last 10-15 years has witnessed two fundamental shifts: initially that of social change, and latterly that of economic shift.

The change in social dynamics during what was an economic boom period through the 1990s & 2000s included a broadening of lifestyle and lifetime experiences , especially amongst the middle-class young who could interweave a long period of international travel (usually 'back-packing' but also increasing NGO work) with their post-poned undertaking of 'expected' higher education & career. Whereas their parents may have interpreted 'travel aspirations' as an alternative 2-week package holiday, or the hope of cruise-boat holidays or long-trips when in retirement, 'GenYers' recognised the irresponsibility of youth as the time to undertake their own cultural and hedonistic 'Grand Tours' of Asiana and South America. Thus, by historical standards, the younger generation's expectancies reached an all time high, buoyed by the golden years of western economic fortune.

However, the 2008 Financial Crisis, the subsequent heavy economic downturn and resulting 'New Norm' of socio-economic instability, has created a seizmic shift in cross-generational perceptions. The undermined long-term financial security of even middle-class families has 're-set' what had been a 'travel sponsoring' mindset for their children, and for parents and child alike the now necessarily hiked financial cost of securing a personal future from higher education means that 'gap year' global travel ambitions look ever more diminished.

Hence a situation where the youth – and indeed not so young - of the UK have been molded toward the expectations of 'wunderlust', but are now forced to recalibrate ideas about what is realistically achievable within far tighter budgetary constraints.

The emergence of this socio-economic re-orientation – whilst no doubt noted - needs to be far better understood by the players within the UK motor-caravan sector; which for very good reason of its own, has been focused on the well established traditional market which caters to middle-aged and 'grey-market' clients who though 'middle of the road' and highly conventional had the benefit of stable employment and solid pensions supporting their relatively high disposable spending in this arena.

It must be recognised that such people still represent the major core of the sector, a core which still looks to set to have a remaining 20 – 30 year life-span and which will undoubtedly continue to be the commercial 'bread & butter' with propensity for relatively 'elastic spending'. So a continued prime market which UK producers will need to attract and satisfy.

And undoubtedly, in time many of those “Gen-Y globe-trotters” will become as (comparatively) conventional as their parents, time and much altered 'life-agenda' diminishing their previous youthful exuberance, and with it an increasing preference for the conservative. Yet because of the increasingly heavy influence of a fashion-orientated, media-driven society, successive generations of people appears to retain / adopt aspects of this youth-centric culture, albeit for the 30-something, 40-something, 50-something and even 60-something, in a more diluted manner.

Thus it is not surprising that whilst the influence of fashion and change was perhaps more obvious half a century ago with different generations clearly de-lineated by clothing, activities and attitudes, the far more heavily media engrained late 20th & early 21st century society. The plethora of media forms via a plethora of media devices has resulted in a form of “human programming” which has fundamentally changed people's lifestyles and interaction behavior.

This now endemic media-centric social shift then must be recognised along with the previously mentioned 'travel-bound' ideology and the economically constrained 'New Norm'.

And it is these 3 major trends that will increasingly affect the motor-caravan sector, and thus must be better understood by sector players and their financiers, so as to evolve in identifying and creating the opportunities to be had, and as importantly, navigate headwinds and avoid potential pitfalls.

To this end investment-auto-motives suggests that the National Caravan Council (and similar sector bodies) funds a meaningful sector research project - structured primarily toward the macro-level 'PESTEL' in nature - into the future of the industry, with special reference to the sociological and technological..

This to be done using either a portion of subscriptions monies paid to the NCC (and other similar trade bodies) if substantive enough, or by the creation of a special project fund. It is viewed that perhaps the most pragmatic course would be to create a 3-stepped programme to run over a number of years.

Step 1 – The work undertaken by the NCC itself if possible for cost efficiency reasons and the advantages of such an 'organic' exploratory process. Although recognising that its own limited capabilities may lead to what may be considered “lower value” research methods, analytical work and final conclusions / recommendations, it would be a useful cost-effective start-point.

Step 2 – Having determined a research base, thereafter, to ascertain “mid-value” recommendations the NCC could perhaps commission a higher-cost, higher-value project via academia. For example, the Cardiff Business School's 'Centre for Automotive Industry Research', or others as most appropriate relative to sector familiarity, research capability and familiarity with the technological and the sociological. Degree level students may not offer the insight required, whilst PhD students typically require long-length (multi-year) projects to substantiate their award. Thus perhaps the best option is to offer the project to a university which can weave a 6-month to 12-month project into the typical 'real-world' case study work undertaken by MA/MSc students. Given the results of Step 1, this approach should provide for useful yet still cost-effective insights.

Step 3 – Ultimately as an optional later stage possibility, if NCC members all agree that previous research has been fruitful and seek to continue in the quest for future sector learning, what should be “high-value” insights may be gained from the use of premium commercial research agencies, such as those used by major car manufacturers. This would undoubtedly lean toward the sociological (technical R&D tends to be undertaken in-house or with academis by VMs) but should identify important “utility / demographic / psychographic” conclusions about the mindsets of various consumer types within the motor-caravan world.

To this end, investment-auto-motives suggests a 3 year programme using each of these steps for cost-efficient 'step by step' picture building might prove most effective. It will ensure that the vital importance of 'Market Connection' is maintained and better understood.

New Era of Marque Differentiation via Technical Innovation -

Given its relatively narrow audience, it is no surprise that this niche sector of the auto-industry does not hold a level of popular esteem equal to that of the legendary British car manufacturers of today or indeed yesteryear.

Motor car manufacturers, the premium marques included, have undoubtedly suffered during historic economic downturns. However, by virtue of the ubiquitousness of the car and their innate standing as symbols of status, meant that the apparent best names – through better company management or marque reverence or indeed both – have been able to withstand economic headwinds; companies taken over as necessary by foreign interests.

In stark contrast, the fact that motor-caravanning has typically always been 'under the societal radar' here in Britain, connected to a previously a small band of participants and only really popularised as the butt of jokes regards summer-time road congestion, it is not so surprising that a major divergence of general knowledge exists between car and motor-caravan. This divergence appears far smaller on the European continent and of course in the USA, given the wider propensity to enjoy such vehicles.

Furthermore, perhaps even more so than tow-caravans, the motor-caravan brand suffers from the fact that the marque itself is viewed as a secondary element compared to the on the road 'visual supremacy' of the base vehicle from the VM van manufacturer; whether VW, Mercedes, Renault, Peugeot / Citroen, FIAT or Ford.

If a camper-van conversion the visual change is to be seen but rarely recognised unless adorned with striking brand graphics, which goes against the typically conservative buyer preference for subtlety and visual convention, and especially obvious on the smaller available body-side of a windowed van.

If a motor-home often the actual model name graphic on the body-side tends to take precedence over the converter company logo or main brand, which may be seen on the front grille and rear as a far smaller 'unseen' badge. The apparent UK preference for periodic change in model names, done to update the range and maintain competitiveness, therefore disrupts even a certain model-line from establishing itself over time.

This then different from the HYMER case study in which its model-line identification remains 'in perpetuity' thus reflecting the standard long-lived nomenclature used on German cars. A long-lived name on necessarily changing product adds gravitas and credibility, as opposed to arguably a more short-termist approach where immediate PR-led market gain is captured by publicised model name change.

Thus we see that the actual name of the converter company itself – notionally the primary brand – has historically been required to 'take a back-seat' resulting from buyer preference and/or model marketing initiatives.

Yet, as previously seen with Winnebago, Airstream or HYMER, this can be overcome to provide strong and direct market connection when the product demonstrates itself as technically superior (ideally both functionally and visually) and is additionally supported by the usual strong customer service quotient the sector demands.

Technical innovation then has proven itself to offer major competitive advantage, when it can be demonstrated as both functionally beneficial and when presented as socially symbolic and so accepted as consumer desired.

Airstream's use of aluminium for its caravan bodies from the 1930s onwards not only had direct links to aero-tech systems, but therein was direct connection to the innate idea of mechanically enabled social progress and betterment. The material itself was also highly evident in the construction of road-side Diners along the then new US highway system, so there was an immediate literal reflection between these two totems of social progress. And the fact that until then roads and roadsides were comparatively deserted meant that the consumer impact for Airstream products 'set in the new age and new sea' was all the greater.

The UK, Europe and Northern America today are far more complex social and sales environments in which sector players must work. So, the 'blank sheet' technical leap that Airstream enjoyed by transforming consumer tastes from old-style wooden & fibre-board caravans toward aluminium structured and aluminium panelled caravans, is not so easily open to manufacturers today. The idea of moving from today's CMC sheet plastic and hand-lay fibre-glass for motor-home body-sides to the 'leap-frog' equivalent of utilising carbon-fibre is wholly unrealistic given the massive pricing gulf between the materials.

Yet that does not mean that other technical advances cannot be made in design, structure, and the utility of fittings, just as has been the case in the past.

The best known example is HYMER's 'PUAL system' of body-side construction / bonding. Introduced some decades ago it is a sandwich mix of outer-skin aluminium, foam core and board interior-skin. Besides negating general water ingress, the system is known to have good insulational properties, steady temperature control and so avoids condensation issues. The producer's own advertisements state that “the 35mm of PUAL wall thickness provides a performance equivalent to an 800mm thickness of standard brick. This innovation has been copied by others in one form or another, though seemingly not quite up to the PUAL standard.

The company also sought to gain advantage by then offering the space-saving innovation of a “pull-down” double-bed, often situated above the driver's cab area, so utilising what is otherwise 'dead-space' and so leaving much of the rear saloon for day-time habitation space. This an innovation thereafter copied by others.

The last renowned innovation from HYMER was the introduction of twin level flooring, effectively creating a sandwich floor which could be used to package both the vehicle's heating systems and provide for expansive under-floor storage areas to stow away camping ancilleries and other low use items such as suitcases etc, which would otherwise clutter the living area of the van.

The “Eco-Tech Ripple” -

It is such intelligent technology and space-planning solutions, borne from the very necessary needs of heat preservation and energy-use reduction aswell as the maximisation of space utilisation, that has over the few decades had such an impact in the more progressive areas of building construction..

Not surprisingly, it has been the commercial building world, with a necessary fiscal imperative for all stake-holders; the new building (land) owners, the building constructors and of course the building leasees. For many years now, unlike the private dwelling sector (exempting social housing), the commercial arena has had to drive down and balance CapEx and Life-Time Running costs.

With far greater desire for progress, the commercial building world has been ahead of the domestic housing building world, which it can be argued has relied upon traditional build methods since they are often so labour and materials intensive so as to have over centuries created a mini-economy of its own; one which is undeniably critically important to the British economy.

However, as seen, the functional needs of the ever improving motor-home has been forced to rely upon 'thin skin' technology, and for occupant comfort (and safety), the best of which must by an enormous factor outperform conventional buildings.

As Germany noted previously given its technology and manufacturing culture, the UK today must continue and indeed increase the pace of not only researching into eco-friendly building methods, but critically provide for the unblocking of any 'bottle-necks' inside the building sector that for self-interest and self-preservation purposes refute the need for progress.

The domestic house building arena has of course taken-on partial learning from the commercial building world, and importantly tends to do so during the policy-induced house-building booms that serve to assist national 'climb-out' from its fiscal woes, such as the 1930s when (German-derived) 'Crittal' windows were installed on a mass scale, and later in the 1970s when secondary and double-glazing was widely introduced.

With the UK's co-alition government liberalising the policy-climate for developers in brownfield and select green-field 'mixed-housing' housing development schemes, the present time is a window of opportunity for the introduction of new eco-tech solutions at both evolutional and step-change levels; the solutions applied befitting the project type.

[ NB the very recent TV programme 'Kevin's Grand Design' - presented by the very popular 'architectural guru' Kevin McCloud - aired on the evening of 8.11.2011. The 2-episode programme concerns itself with the creation of a new eco-housing project led by Mr McCloud which itself incorporates an eco-conscious bias and the use of a 'space & utility maximisation' philosophy now understood as derived directly from the caravan industry].

Thus whilst domestic housing obviously looks to commercial builds for eco-tech inspiration, there is also a need for both domestic and commercial to 'pick the brains' of the motor-home sector and cherry-pick or mimic those current and emerging solutions which can be deployed.

To this end there should be an exploration of:
- materials technology transfer
- build methods technology transfer
- efficient energy systems (electricity, gas, water, waste) transfer
(the latter looking beyond 'smart-meters' into whole systems efficiency)

There should be concentrated learning and deployment that enables technology-transfer between various types and modes of habitation type, from camper-vans to motor-homes to static-caravans to cabin-type holiday dwellings to conventional housing to progressive housing and to step-change type dwellings.

Undoubtedly presently the UK's Building Research Establishment does very good R&D work, its BRE Innovation Park demonstrates 10 separate buildings by differing concerns (from mainstream builders to research agents). This then presents what appears the natural channel for building sector efforts at feasible trickle-down eco-solutions, and no doubt will gain greater profile as part of the co-alition government's major new house-building effort, itself served by several different funds.

But to reach beyond the mid-term and look into the long-term, the BRE (or similar) and participant architects, developers and building contractors may need to extend their vision further afield and toward the world of motor-caravans to understand the realms of the possible, with solutions approached from the opposite direction.

The Camping Economy & Eco-Tech 'Starter Motor' -

Beyond the pragmatically academic R&D work of the BRE, it may be the case that to truly cross-fertilise technology learning across the plethora of habitation sectors, that the camping economy itself could be used to create a 'spiral staircase' toward mainstream habitation, one in which the upward force of change creates a (Dyson-esque) multiplier cyclone effect on the size / scale of applications as it moves from the fringe of motor-caravans and through into more mainstream (static building) types.

Furthermore, the fact that the broad camping sector has its own mini-economy could be of major assistance. If that mini-economy is understood and deployed adeptly, it suggests that the central message of technology transfer can be aired (via the camping route-way) to engender demand for such eco-tech change, with an onus on self-help, as opposed to expecting from the nanny state. Thus, already present and growing 'camping consumers' become a broad base of 'evangelists' or 'missionaries' on behalf of the eco-message.

The camping holiday arena is an economic world in itself, and as such should be viewed as a microcosm of the nation at large. It includes:

- Core Products
(tents, caravans, camper-vans, chalets, cottages)
- Functional Ancilleries
- Fashion Accessories
- Financial Services
- Insurance Services
- Driver Training Courses
- Emergency Rescue/Assistance Services
- General Advice Services
- Leisure Park 'Pitch' Rental
- Leisure Park 'On-Site' Facilities / Services / Events

This all combines to create a network or matrix of commercial interaction, from opportunities for brand development, cross-selling, loyalty schemes, promotional tie-ins etc. And with the emergence of the powerful 'grey market' over the last 20 years it is a sphere which many portfolio companies and investment houses have taken great interest, the past seeing interest from the likes of SAGA Group which sought motoring and travel synergies with its ownership of the Automobile Association under the name Acromas Holdings. Thus the wide realms of the camping world is recognised as a powerful economic force in itself and when tied to synergistic corporations.

It then represents a economic sub-system to that of the nation's which might be moulded to act as the 'eco-tech starter motor'. Undoubtedly the trend is already under way, though to what extend is unknown, with the emergence of hand-powered torches and wind-up radios, solar-powered electronic device chargers, and other energy capturing or energy saving items.

[NB it presently appears very slim that there will be any market/private-led or government-led incentive toward major re-investment in the UK's energy sector. This indicates that the present plant infrastructure will be utilised and 'run-down', replaced on an ad-hoc basis where necessary. This in turn indicates that supply levels vs demand levels will shrink, thus maintaining historically high price levels and so nurturing the consumer market for energy related devices].

The continued ideological support of this trend would provide the initial momentum for the 'ripple-effect', via an in-situ audience and so concomitant market-place, which is already attitudinally open to the positive aspects of eco-tech relative to 'natural living'. And thus, presumably, a domino effect of its influence throughout the various camping affiliated consumer groups and thereafter into the wider reaches of mainstream society.

This appears the reality already, but perhaps requires greater effort by commercial interests to turn the ripple into a wave of attitudinal change.

Scale-Up for National Economic Revitalisation -

The Autumn statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer highlighted the need for continued to drastically reduce the UK's national debt levels, a central exercise if the UK is to ultimately rebound with necessary vigour. The classical economists' monetarist perspective relays common sense when it is recognised that the less the burden on government so the less the burden on industry (spanning high-finance to light-industry) thus onto commerce and so the people at large. In the meantime fiscal constraint will be hand in hand with inevitable consumer constraint as the re-balancing continues.

Although technically out of recession - represented by shallow growth figures – the undeniable reality is that the western world has endured what has been a monumental structural recession born from the 2008 financial crisis, and its after-shock - even without the Eurozone trauma which adds further tremors - was never going to show a strong near-term up-tick. For all the talk of 'U' shaped recession, or 'W' shaped recession, because of the unparalleled economic structural damage, it was always destined to be a very slow ride out of the storm. This is why investment-auto-motives talked of the 'New Norm' before it became generally accepted, and why the best symbol to represent the situation is a shallow angled 'tick' representing a slow trudge.

In tandem with cutting debt, plans for re-generating economic growth have been aired. In typical fashion the government targets infrastructure, with the 'National Infrastructure Plan' recognising 40 projects of “national importance” with another 500 identified by the private and public sector. It spans railways, power (notwithstanding the aforementioned note), roads and internet.
Naysayers such as The Economist state that this alone will not provide the necessary re-energisation to fully assist the UK, a whilst a somewhat obvious / fatuous statement given that infrastructure build is the direct catalyst for one or two sectors of the economy (FTSE 500 and all), it does replay the usual re-vitalisation pattern by working 'bottom-up' with more immediate shovel-ready jobs leading to new infrastructure related jobs across many other sectors.

However, whilst this represents a much needed £250bn or so capital injection, and represents the beginning of the foundational 'productivity push', as stated in the last section, there needs to be a 'demand pull' to ensure that generated wealth that passes through employees hands from infrastructure programmes and additional cash injections from UK private enterprise and incoming FDI monies, is re-spent throughout the UK economy.

Green issues and eco-tech has over the last decade risen ever higher in the consciousness of the public. Yet to a large extent, that consciousness has been regards state driven ideals – themselves stemming from the Kyoto Protocol in the early 1990s. Focused on what appeared the radically transformative effects of wind-farms located off & on-shore, sea based wave-motion generators on the water's surface and current-motion (water-wheel) machines situated on the sea-bed, or solar-farms such as those pioneered in Spain and the Sahara project to convey solar-energy into the European power-grid. But in the fiscal reality of today such grand schemes appear not only prohibitively capital intensive but also a leap into a technically unproven future.

Instead, because of the expected decline in power availability in the UK, the realistic future is not energy production, but energy management, and that very much depends upon the behaviour of the public and its own consumer actions.

But of course, state, private enterprise and consumers do not operate in individual isolation. To this end investment-auto-motives believes that the camping sector – including the wider popularisation of the motor-caravan – can act as a fundamental catalyst in transforming consumer and thus public behaviour.

It was noted that camping is a multi-faceted world, with different yet often interconnected business streams. Moreover the various methods of camping represent a 'staircase' of habitation levels (comfort and security), from the basic 1-2 man tent through to family tents, to caravan / motor-home, static caravan and to chalet / cabin type construction.

Each represents a level of habitation closely ties to comfort / convenience / safety and as such is closely related to a level of energy use. Each of these habitat types has had tools, devices, instruments, machines developed to suit the need, from a hand wind-up mobile phone charger when in a tent, to in the case of a remote cabin, roof-mounted black coloured water-stores which absorb the sun's heat and provide for warm showering.

Whilst many such solutions can and are used by different habitation types – and of course rely upon the the basic science - there is very probably an opportunity for eco-tech transfer between most levels of the 'staircase', thus allowing for alternative energy efficient answers.

Perhaps none more so than the relationship between motor-caravan and conventional house.

It is believed that the fact that motor-homes seek to have a 'closed-loop' level of self-sustainability to provide for as much time spent 'off-grid' or 'unplugged' as possible Yet also the fact that energy is available from the vehicle's internal combustion engine (itself of course from petrol) when necessary.

This then mimics the desire that house-holds become as self-sufficient as possible, ultimately drawing power from the national grid when necessary. Here then the parallel and route to learning is that the national grid can be represented by motor-home's internal combustion engine.

To provide for such a high level of self-sustainability, motor-homes have for many years had energy management systems. These signal energy use rates and remaining levels, very much as the fuel-gauge does on a standard car, and is able to allocate energy consumption between the energy stored in the vehicle's batteries and the functional ancilleries. Thus 'smart-meters' have been deployed in the camping world for nigh on decades.

However, there is of course an intermediate type of habitat that sits between motor-home and conventional house: the holiday chalet or cabin.

This then offers the possibility of deploying the holiday chalet as an intermediary enabler in the mainstream acceptance of eco-tech, from smart-meters and energy allocation systems (for primary and secondary functions) to newly deployed materials and methods in wall insulation (such as the PUAL system used by HYMER) to perhaps even an increase in the use of human powered devices.

[NB It seems ironic that gym-base running machines et al require electricity drawn from the grid when the human is expending energy].

Thus given that the camping arena is so broad and so directly philosophically connected to nature and the ideals of self-sufficiency, it is appropriate that camping products, camping / leisure centres and all that operates in this micro-cosmic universe be well orchestrated by those related commercial entities. This spanning from influential entrepreneurs such as the Dragon's Den's Deborah Meaden, to camping-centric holding companies such as Swift Group to Private Equity firms that have taken a deep investment interest in the sector.

Conclusion -

The 3 sections presented over the last 3 weeks sought to demonstrate the growing importance of the UK motor-caravan sector to personal leisure, regional travel and acceptance of eco-tech solutions; these stemming from and reacting to, the massive shift in demographic and economic trends that have taken place in recent years.

It sought to highlight how all players of the sector need to consider their reaction to this period of change, from the old established family firm through to the ever growing multi-brand sector consolidator. These changes mean that new challenges and opportunities have and will continue to appear. And critically that the sector, having gone through 'boom and bust' could well benefit from what may be a prolonged period of mass popularisation and growth. But this only achievable if the the previously narrow perception – itself a natural result of historical experience - toward the market and so products and service is expanded to relate to demographic and fiscal change.

Moreover, why the motor-caravan sector must be viewed by manufacturers and investors, not as a discrete isolated sub-section of the camping genre, with little more than production synergies with tow-caravans, but as perhaps the vanguard of the contemporary 'self-sustaining' 'eco-tech' zeitgeist.

Why the time has come for new thinking about how the motor-caravan sector can act as a catalyst – as part of a far broader agenda - for social change in greater acceptance of systems-based and personal-base eco-tech.

Eco-tech that may be scaled-up through the camping mini-economy and its 'staircase' of habitation types.

To this end, whilst Britain politically appears 'at odds' with Europe given the outcome of the recent Brussels meeting between EU leaders, the reality is that perhaps more than ever, the need for UK & European trade is greater than ever. And that relationship should serve the UK to learn, absorb and appropriate the best examples of eco-tech seen in Europe (typically Germany), both importing when desirable, but also being inspired to produce in the UK for the UK.

Hence the notion of a “British HYMER” (ideally many companies of such ilk), which can act as physical vehicles for personal and family leisure, and as critically technology-transfer platforms for the naton-wide acceptance of new era, multi-layered eco-tech.

This approach replicated by the big-players of the wide-span camping sector, so that 'intelligent motor-homes' can influence 'intelligent holiday chalets' to influence 'intelligent mainstream housing'

However, within the motor-caravan sector, because company fortunes have been so closely linked to the economic cycle, and much affected by 'boom and bust' periods, there seems a polarisation of company size and operational attitudes. An overly simplistic depiction is - the ambitious (perhaps financially leveraged) growth orientated enterprises that seek sector consolidation, versus family-run firms run on caution, operational cashflow and generational stability, (very much in the Mittelstand manner).

Though let down by its European partners, Germany still offers the philosophical basis of an economic model that could serve Britain very well into the future. One where the benefits of market and technical learning amongst all parties in a sector far outweigh the far more short-termist gains of the large player over the small player.

Whilst the age of credit driven corporate growth has not wholly diminished in the west , and will indeed underpin necessarily consolidation in certain speheres. But for the new growth arenas such as eco-tech, itself enabled through a renewed appreciation for nature and camping, the fact is that the large and small players of the sector will be far better served, as will the nation as a whole, from mutual respect and efforts to grow the overall 'economic cake'.