Hays Travel is to close all of its branches within WHSmith shops by Christmas.

Three concessions were opened – in WHSmith retail units in Plymouth, Exeter and Leeds White Rose shopping centre – as part of a pilot plan, which was originally intended to see six opened within the high street retailer’s shops.

Managing director John Hays said the move was a “mistake” but had looked like a good opportunity at the outset due to WHSmith’s strong brand awareness.

The Exeter and Plymouth agencies within WHSmiths branches have been closed, with Leeds to follow by January. Hays did not rule out opening full Hays Travel branches in those three cities.

“We take risks,” Hays told Travel Weekly. “This time it didn’t work out but we’re not afraid to admit we made a mistake this time.”

Hays used one of his sessions at the annual Hays Travel Independence Group (IG) conference to tell members that it was important to be brave in business.

“Everyone in the room is an entrepreneur who takes risks,” he said. “You have to take risks, but don’t bet the house.”

Chair Irene Hays added: “We’ve kissed more princes than frogs over the year.”

Hays Travel currently has 171 branches and expects to reach 180 by Christmas.

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