Harry-James Smith - Dennis Cove Campsite

It all started with the humble loo roll

Some forward thinking around purchasing of vital business consumables, in this case loo roll, freed up funds to invest in a bigger project that meant one campsite could stay open later into the quieter season.

When you run a business the size of Dennis Cove Campsite you have to be resourceful. With over 100 pitches across five separate camping fields, owner Harry-James Smith has his hands full but is always looking for creative ways to improve.

“The loo roll idea came from our supplier as we have a great relationship with them,” Harry-James said. “He offered to sell a bulk load at a discount, and luckily enough we had the space to store it.”

The saving Harry-James made by purchasing in bulk meant the money could be redirected towards a construction project helping the campsite open earlier and close later in the season season because of improved drainage. “Those are bookings we wouldn’t have been able to offer up to customers. It’s money in the bank being able to offer it,” he added.

“We started paying the Real Living Wage this year the two vacancies we had filled up very quickly – the level of applicants was far higher than in previous years.”

Harry-James’ efforts to increase turnover is not limited to opening earlier and closing later. He’s overhauled is booking system so that half the camping fee is taken at booking and the remaining balance is paid two weeks before the slot. “Because you are asking for £100 as a deposit it sorts the wheat from the chaff.”

Under the old non-digitised system cash flow was much harder to manage and Harry-James would be out of pocket if a booking simply failed to show up.

Real Living Wage

Away from the nuts and bolts of how he takes bookings, Harry-James has taken the progressive approach to start paying his staff the Real Living Wage. Going beyond the official government-mandated National Living Wage of £8.21 for those over 25, the Real Living Wage is £9. It’s calculated according to the cost of living – based on a basket of household goods and services.

Harry-James took inspiration from Patrick Langmaid, a fellow hospitality business owner and someone who has served as a mentor figure. “Patricks believes in paying people what they are worth, not what you can get away with,” Harry-James added. Having started paying the Real Living Wage this year, the level of applicants for the four full-time positions he had was far higher and the workforce looks different.

“Interestingly enough, of the people I have recruited this year two have degrees and one is a master’s student,” he added. “It’s not the be all and end all, I believe in hiring character and then training them up. But paying a bit more money seems to have attracted different types of character.”

Seeing someone like Patrick make a change and experience the upside gave Harry-James the confidence to try it himself. He’s a real example of the power talking with people who face the same daily challenges can have.

Key takeaways:

  1. Get closer to your suppliers – there are opportunities to be had
  2. Simple technology can bring about transformational change
  3. Pay your staff what they’re worth, not what you can get away with