A British made luxury pod, with an ingenious design that elicits more than a good ROI!
Nestling in beautiful countryside south of Edinburgh is a rural business manufacturing a pod called the Armadilla. Seven years ago, farmer Archie Hunter and his son Ross, a design engineer, came up with the concept in an attempt to create a product which was unique and special. It looks like they have succeeded.
With over 400 Armadilla pods already in use in the UK, Armadilla Ltd is now distributing throughout Europe and the Middle East with plans afoot to launch in the US.
The flagship product of the company is the Armadilla Xtraroom Deluxe, a luxurious accommodation pod with an en-suite wet room. It is primarily targeted at the fast-growing boutique glamping sector which, like the boutique hotel genre, has become synonymous with quirky upmarket accommodation. Comfort, aesthetics, quality fittings, attention to detail and advanced technological features are fundamental.
The market for this type of accommodation is quite discerning, but is willing to pay a premium for a good experience. The Xtraroom has been designed to readily provide either two single beds or a good sized double bed. The largest proportion of guests tend to be Millennials (born in the ’80s and ’90s) but the Baby Boomers are getting in on the act also – both sectors with high disposable incomes.
One of the most exciting features of the Armadilla is the shape. The design is quite unique and has elements of the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Mean incorporated in it. These mathematical elements have been used throughout millennia in architecture and art, and have been found to have an intriguing effect on peoples’ emotions.
It’s certainly true that the Armadilla creates an emotional impact on all who see it. From a commercial perspective, this is important. Most bookings are based on a trawl through the internet, and if an Armadilla image pops up on the screen people are more inclined Ttostop and look at it. They then read about its features and when they see that it has a wet room with flushing toilet, shower and wash hand basin they become seriously interested.
Prospective bookers will then examine what other ingredients are on offer and begin looking at availability. So, what are all these other ingredients? Location, additional facilities (eg. hot tub), proximity of restaurant or pub etc, but most importantly an attractive natural environment. And the more exciting or stunning the environment the better.
At this point it is worth examining the concept of the ‘Experience Economy’. Glamping, as an industry, is part of this experience economy. We are providing an experience for our customers that they will (hopefully) enjoy and remember. They will want to share their experience with their friends and family. And they will frequently do this during the experience using social media. (hence it is important to provide good internet access).
A recent survey by Eventbrite found that three in four Millennials would prefer to spend money on a desirable experience rather than buying something desirable. Over 70 per cent indicated that they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than physical things in the coming year.
Occupancy and yield
A classic example of getting all the ingredients right is Riverbeds (www.stayglencoe.co.uk), a site with eight Armadilla Xtrarooms on the west coast of Scotland near Fort William. Owner Laurence Young had approached Armadilla to see how he could best capitalise on a site he had adjacent to a mountain river cascading down from a dramatic mountain backdrop.
To create a truly unique experience, Archie proposed cantilevering the Armadillas over the river, which was relatively easy due to the integral steel frame with which they are built. Laurence introduced hot tubs into the equation and, from a standing start in April 2016, he has maintained superb occupancies right through the year (winter included) with average nightly rates far in excess of normal glamping operations.
Full of features
So, what are the principal features of the Armadilla? Crucially, it is constructed in the UK in a factory environment which enables it to be built to an exceptionally high commercial standard. Cladding is Siberian Larch, and all external fittings are marine grade stainless steel. It is offered with a 10 year structural warranty, but is expected to comfortably go on for many decades. All external coatings are Scandinavian with a typical six to eight year recoating cycle.
In fact, the longevity of the product is one of the key environmental features – sustainability. Coupled with its exceptionally high environmental credentials (all materials FSC, water based coatings, low energy consumption, low or no VOC etc.) it will attract environmentally conscious users. Doors and windows are double glazed with laminated and toughened glass.
The organic shape of the Armadilla allows it to nestle comfortably in any environment. Whether it’s halfway up a mountain, in amongst trees or overlooking a sandy beach, it only requires four padstones to sit on. The simplicity of installation is one of the many features commented on by purchasers. It also means that relocation is a breeze if circumstances change. A real benefit of the Armadilla is the ability to start off with a few and build up incrementally as business grows. One site has added a new unit every year for the last six years.
From the outset, the Armadilla Xtraroom was designed as a commercial product. The overriding focus is to enable commercial users to maximise profit. As all owners know, the time spent servicing accommodation between guests is critical. The Xtraroom should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes for a thorough clean and changeover. This enables owners to consider taking one nighters more readily thus maximising occupancy rates.
The Xtraroom Deluxe is fitted with Climate Control, integrated sound system, smart TV, colour changing LED wall wash lighting and much more. However, there are a number of other accommodation models in the Armadilla range which will be of interest to glampsite owners looking for a more basic unit, including a family unit.
But the Armadilla is not just a glamping product. It can provide a sensibly priced and speedy solution to a B&B, hotel or wedding venue seeking additional high class accommodation. In addition to the accommodation models, Armadilla Ltd produces a range of offices and therapy rooms suited to the ever-expanding home working market.
To cope with increasing enquiries from schools, the company has introduced an educational model used by schools for special educational needs, nurture groups, dyslexic and autistic children etc. In Scotland, the company has introduced a sensory room in conjunction with the National Autistic Society.
VAT and Capital Allowance wins
Due to its construction, sizing and facilities the Xtraroom models are classed as caravans and attract the Holiday Park Caravan VAT rate of 5 per cent. This may well be of interest to owners who are planning only a few and are going to have turnover below the VAT threshold (and thus the low 5 per cent VAT on the purchase is less painful).
For the larger user, the caravan status of the Armadilla means there is the potential to claim 100 per cent Capital Allowances on the full cost of the Armadilla. This is an advantage enjoyed by licensed Holiday Caravan Park sites. A licence can be obtained within two months of gaining planning approval, and applications are made to the same local authority for a Holiday Park Licence (this does not require you to have on your site anything other than the Armadillas, and the conditions required are for the most part quite sensible).
Armadilla Ltd has a knowledgeable team that can provide any level of involvement right up to a turnkey solution. Archie is happy to talk through all aspects with enquirers.
There are many hundreds of reviews from satisfied users on the internet. Here are a few:
“Within five minutes of having arrived I was thrilled we’d chosen to stay in one of these fab little self-contained units. I’d never have believed you could fit so much into such a compact space. They start to feel quite big once you realise everything that’s in them. Brilliant. There were all the gadgets you could want – wall mounted TV above the bed, kettle, toaster, coffee machine, fridge. The pods were quiet, felt secluded and ours had a hot tub. My 6’5” partner was comfortable in the bed, and we both slept well.” Jo
“These lodges are amazing! So comfortable and cozy, but so innovative with space and facilities! Every little thing had been thought about… and done well!” Rachie
“I loved the idea of glamping and the quality of the accommodation that was provided. Everything we could possibly need for our stay was provided. So much could fit in the pod and it still felt there was lots of room to ‘live’ in there. My husband is over 6ft and the bed provided enough room for him to sleep comfortably.” Hannah