Comment: Travel can learn from retail concept stores

Comment: Travel can learn from retail concept stores

By Kathryn Ward, Tui retail director

As the UK’s fantastic summer of sport ends, the whole country is still basking in its glow. From speaking to our retail agents this seems to have resulted in a return in consumer confidence, with many customers coming in-store to look at holidays for next summer.

September is all about cruise 
for us as we celebrate National Cruise Week – not just for the week, but the whole month. The first week has gone really well and I hope it means the cruise market is bouncing back as it’s been a tricky year.

It’s pleasing to see the industry is investing a lot in its products and campaigns to try to entice customers to book early again. Royal Caribbean is kick-starting a TV ad campaign, while P&O is sponsoring Downton Abbey. It’s fantastic that a broader range of consumers will be having more cruise messages brought to them.

At Thomson Cruises, we are upgrading two ships to launch our new Platinum Cruises offering next year. Thomson Cruises has a very loyal customer base, so our agents are always thrilled when they can talk to customers about new developments with our itineraries and ships.

In the next few weeks I will be visiting the new M&S concept store at Cheshire Oaks. I’m looking forward to seeing it, having read all about its technological advances. It’s interesting to see how retailers are using technology to sell their products. Audi has a concept store in London where the cars have been taken away from the showroom and instead customers can click and choose their specifications before seeing their dream car appear on a giant screen.

It’s important for travel retailers to keep their eye on what brands outside of the travel industry are doing and I’m keen to see if we can incorporate any of these concepts into our retail estate.

We are close to offering Wi-Fi in store so customers can look up information on their holidays. In the past we were worried they’d always find the product cheaper online, but people will only go home and do the same so we may as well be part of the process.

With the Atol deadline almost here, I am finishing a project to get all of our shops ready. It has been complex and expensive, but we are confident we will be ready.

The next six weeks will be hugely busy as we look forward to our annual retail conference in November. I always look forward to conference season as it’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and discuss new ideas for the next year.


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