Independent travel agencies have defied the UK’s high street struggles with a flurry of shop openings this month.
So far in January, new stores have opened in Liverpool, Scotland, Macclesfield and Wales.
The openings come at a time when slower consumer spending and online competition is hitting the high street.
Last year saw the demise of major retail chains including Toys R Us, Maplin and Carpetright, while others announced major restructures. HMV went into administration after Christmas.
Merseyside agency Perfect Getaways is one of a number of independents to invest in bricks and mortar at the start of the year.
The agency, owned and run by husband and wife Dave and Nicola Palmer, opened two new shops on Saturday – in St Johns Shopping Centre in Liverpool city centre and Church Square Shopping Centre in St Helens – taking their total number of stores to five.
All five feature a bar, children’s play area and sweet ‘shop’.
“We see potential in the high street,” said Dave. “Agents are unique because people come in to town especially to book a holiday. We are a bit different with the bar and activities. Customers like that.”
In Macclesfield, Cheshire, former Personal Travel Agents consultant Richard Slater opened his first shop, Henbury Travel, last week after 30 years as a travel agent. The area around his new store on Chestergate is tipped for regeneration and an upmarket food hall is due to open this year.
“I’ve seen an increase in people coming to [homeworking] with no experience, so I wanted to show my clients a more concrete business and give myself more of an identity with a shop,” Slater said. “When everybody is moaning about the high street, this is a positive story.”
In Scotland, Love to Travel opened its third store, in Bellshill near Glasgow, on Saturday and plans to open two more by the end of the year. Owner Joanne Dooey said Thomas Cook and Tui closures had created opportunities for her to open where multiples had left gaps and experienced staff.
“There is a return to the high street,” she said.
“I’m seeing more people who have tried online and realised they could have got us to do it for the same price without all the hassle.”
Welsh miniple Tailor Made Travel opened its 15th store, in Neath, last week. Owner Simon Morgan said high street footfall was down overall but agencies were “resilient”.
“Location is important but reputation even more so,” he said.
Elsewhere, Hays Travel is to open a store in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, on January 23.
At a glance
• Liverpool and St Helens: Perfect Getaways
• Macclesfield, Cheshire: Henbury Travel
• Bellshill, Scotland: Love to Travel
• Neath, Wales: Tailor Made Travel
• Huddersfield, West Yorkshire: Hays Travel
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