By Ian McConnell

A SCOTTISH firm which converts Volkswagen Transporter vehicles into campervans has returned to production this week, citing potential for a boom in “staycations” to boost demand.

Employee-owned Jerba Campervans, based in North Berwick, said it would bring back all 15 staff members to its premises following its decision to return to work in line with the latest government guidelines. All of the employees were furloughed amid the coronavirus crisis. Jerba noted it had returned to a “backlog of orders for its bespoke VW T6 Transporter campervan conversions”.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Whatever next from Boris on Brexit? A Tony the Tiger roar?

Asked what was the normal monthly production level for vehicle conversions, and what was anticipated with the restart, Jerba co-founder and director Simon Poole replied: “Full conversions per month was four to five prior to lockdown and we will very quickly return to that. The new layouts and working restrictions we have brought in will only have a very marginal impact on productivity – we should soon make up for it with continual improvement in other areas.”

Jerba noted, at the time it halted production because of the Covid-19 lockdown, it had “vans at varying stages of conversion, including one pristine motor fully ready to be taken to its new home, but unable to be picked up in time due to the restrictions”.

It added that, with early evidence from AutoTrader suggesting demand for motorhomes, caravans and campervans was increasing in line with an anticipated “staycation boom”, it had seen its own web traffic for June jump nearly 80 per cent year-on-year.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Anyone seeing ‘addiction’ to furlough needs to take a look at reality of coronavirus crisis

Mr Poole, who founded Jerba with wife Cath in 2006, said: “Thankfully we were able to complete a number of jobs prior to lockdown coming in, which ensured we were well placed to see out the lockdown.”

He added: “We’re now in a position where we can cautiously return our teams, on a phased basis, and begin completing the vans currently in the process of being converted. There is a lot of talk about surging demand for campervans, which is great, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

Jerba, which became 100%-employee-owned in 2018 and has seen productivity rise year-on-year, offers five standard conversions of the T6.1 Transporter van. Its team of cabinet-makers and mechanics then build the vans by hand, customising each vehicle to the customer's needs. Jerba is recognised as a converter by Volkswagen.