Thomson plans to open a “shop of the future” to trial groundbreaking retail concepts and techniques used by brands such as Apple, Nike and Audi.
The “incredibly different” shop is likely to ditch brochure racks and desks and replace them with modern retail facilities such as digital screens, video walls and various levels of service.
The company is searching for a high profile location for a large shop to open within the next 12 months.
The move was revealed at Tui Travel’s retail managers’ conference in Tunisia, where retail director Kathryn Ward said the group planned to introduce concepts never seen before in travel retailing.
“We want to have one shop to develop what agents will be like in the future,” she said. “Perceptions of travel agents and package holidays are old-fashioned – we want to bust that perception.”
The new store will introduce concepts which, if successful, could be introduced to between 50 and 100 of Tui’s flagship stores, while some elements might be introduced across the network.
“We will develop the new shop with component parts that are scalable. We will use it to test the water,” said Ward.
“We want to take significant items and roll them out to our flagship stores.
“The simpler elements I can see us having everywhere.”
Customers will be able to opt for self service bookings online within the shop, or request some or full assistance. Ward (pictured, centre, with Tui staff in Tunisia) admitted most customers preferred full assistance but said: “It’s important to offer all types of service.”
The company has looked at what high-profile brands outside the travel industry, such as Nike, Apple, Audi and Marks & Spencer, have introduced.
Nick Longman, Tui distribution and online director of mainstream, admitted trials of brochure-free First Choice pods in supermarkets six or seven years ago had failed, but said: “I think that was too early; now we have come to a time where we can look at these things.”