A.J. Thomas campers, the closest camper trailer store to Melbourne’s CBD, offers plenty of experience and know-how.
A.J. Thomas could be a sort of RV dealer anomaly: it’s 8km from Melbourne’s CBD in leafy Caulfield East, selling over 200 units a year right between two train stations, and cross the road from Caulfield Racecourse, home of the Vic Caravan and Camping Show.
The company as been owned, operated and staffed by the same family for almost 30 years, dealing only in camper trailer hire and sale, and enjoys repeat business to such an extent that one customer is now on to his fourth camper trailer.
Today running the business with his Son Dean, Welsh born Alun Thomas started A.J. Thomas back in 1978, on the very same spot. Alun has specialised in camper trailers for the last 15 years, and one thing he is sure of is that the industry has grown.
“Just doing camping trailers,” he says, “we’ve hit the mark straight off.” A.J. Thomas is now the exclusive Vic dealer for Quest RV, Pioneer and Bushranger brands of camper trailers and keeps about 35 units on site, sometimes as many as 40, with 370sqm of covered showroom.
Another 460sqm is devoted to a two-bay workshop at the back, which looks after the servicing of Quest RV, Pioneer and Bushranger camper trailers, including wheel bearings, brakes and general maintenance.
Fiamma awnings, bag flies and similar equipment can also be fitted there, but more complicated modifications such as adding panels and suspension upgrades are passed on to one of the dealer’s preferred providers.
Try-before-you-by is a strong element of the business, with a fleet of Quest RV models and Pioneer fold-out hard floor camper trailers for hire. Alun says that many rentals turn into purchases.
“We get a lot of people that hire an off road wind-up Quest RV model, and then they’ll hire an off road Pioneer- they’re trying to make a decision between two completely different products.” The split is equal: some like the convenience of the wind-up Quest RV, others like the camping feel of the Pioneer. “Some don’t want the caravan style, they still prefer that camping experience,” Alun says.
Buyers come from all over. Many customers arrive by train from country Vic, others come from interstate, with increasing numbers of Tasmanian Rvers crossing the Strait to visit Alun; A.J Thomas camper trailers have also been sent to Adelaide and Brisbane.
Lately Alun has noticed a trend of young families buying camper trailers, as well as the steadily growing, traditional retiree crowd. Requests for children’s annexes for the solid floor campers are not uncommon.
“Many young people who might otherwise go overseas are picking up a camper trailer and doing the big Australian trip instead. Then they bring the camper back and put it on the market. “Used camper trailers hold their value