Roden without a camping store. For many, unthinkable. Yet after the closure of De Vrijbuiter it really seemed to happen. Until former owners Gerard Kremer and Ate van der Veen sprang into action. Their widely supported initiative eventually resulted in Kampeerhal Roden.
For decades they flocked to Roden en masse. Hundreds of thousands of customers a year. Coming from all over the Netherlands and regularly even from abroad. Sometimes shuffling through the enormous store. Yet last summer De Vrijbuiter in the village in Drenthe went bankrupt. Together with the three other megastores of the camping store chain. With Vervat a buyer was found relatively quickly.
However, the Rotterdam-based camping specialist only wanted to take over the branches in Zaandam and Gouda. And so, in addition to Roermond, the doors in Roden were closed. Indeed, no more camping hall in Roden. By the way, the birthplace of De Vrijbuiter. The place from which the company had grown since its establishment in 1985 to become the country's largest camping discounter. No, we can't let that happen, thought former owners Gerard Kremer and Ate van der Veen. Why not do it ourselves?
Kremer and Van der Veen decided to investigate the possibilities. First, they requested the figures from the trustee. The findings were encouraging. 'Contrary to what you would expect in a bankruptcy, we saw that turnover was fine,' Kremer clarified. 'Until the last day, there was a large influx of customers.
We did feel, however, that there was considerable room for improvement on the cost side. Then we started doing the math and came to the conclusion that our plan had a great chance of success. As it turned out, they were not the only ones confident about the arrival of a new camping store. For example, the province of Drenthe, the municipality of Noordenveld, the bank and nine local entrepreneurs indicated their willingness to finance the initiative. The same was true of the MKB Fonds Drenthe.
'Of course we did a careful market research beforehand,' says Dave de Groot, investment manager of the fund that supports promising companies from Drenthe with funding and/or equity. 'This showed that there was a black hole after De Vrijbuiter closed. In other words: there is market space for a camping hall in Roden. In addition, we spoke extensively with all those directly involved. Not only with Gerard and Ate, but also with Gerard's son Richard and Harmjan Poel. The latter will soon be jointly responsible for the daily management of Kampeerhal Roden, as the company will be called.
Richard and Harmjan know each other through and through. For example, they once did purchasing together for four and a half years at De Vrijbuiter. And in the years since, they have built up a proven track record elsewhere, especially in the field of online sales. That combination of the older and the younger generation, the market knowledge present, the potential of the business and the financial commitment of the nine local entrepreneurs, each with their own specific knowledge and expertise, made us decide to provide funding.
Kampeerhal Roden will open next March 30. The new camping store, located in the former Vrijbuiter building on Kanaalstraat, is expected to create about 30 new jobs. Some of the vacancies will be filled with former employees of De Vrijbuiter. Some of them had already found other jobs, but quit immediately. All too happy to be part of the new adventure.
Consumers also reacted purely positively, happy that there will soon be a camping store again in Roden. 'Reactions on social media suggested that the soul had disappeared from the company in recent years,' says Richard Kremer. In addition, the assortment was focused too much on the upper end of the market. So many expensive brands. While competitive prices, in combination with a wide range, was always the secret of the success formula.'
THE VOID IS BEING FILLED WITH A VERY PROMISING RETAIL INITIATIVE, BY THINKING AND ACTING DIFFERENTLY. WE ARE HAPPY TO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS WITH FUNDING FROM THE MKB FONDS DRENTHE
All those responses and customer needs were taken into account in the creation of the new store. In developing a recognizable, accessible and distinctive concept. But what exactly can consumers expect?
'In any case, a store where experience and price play a big role,' the youngest Kremer emphasizes. 'So the store will be divided into different worlds, each with its own theme. After all, we do much more than just camping. Indeed, at Kampeerhal Roden you can go for almost anything to do with 'outdoors'. Everywhere in the store you can experience everything. And everywhere you can test and experience products in a suitable environment in the best possible way. The biggest challenge? That lies right at the opening. We notice that people are very curious. That's why we really want to surprise them. And that will succeed, for sure!'
Want to know more about MKB Fonds Drenthe? MKB Fonds Drenthe is a fund managed by NOM.