Shopping tourism no longer means picking up a souvenir or two at the airport, says Joanna Booth
You know the scene. Julia Roberts, laden with bags from Rodeo Drive’s most expensive stores, turns to the snooty assistant who has formerly refused to serve her and says: “You work on commission right? Big mistake.”
This scene from Pretty Woman doesn’t merely evoke the joys of shopping, but it makes a valid point for travel agents. You may have considered shopping something your clients like to do, on holiday or at home, but not really anything you can get involved with. And certainly not something you can earn commission on. This isn’t the case. From commissionable shopping packages and trips to visit Christmas markets to shopping festivals around the world that can be used to clinch a sale, there are plenty of ways you can make shopping pay.
Think celebrations – VIP outlet village packages and Christmas Market weekend breaks could make lovely Mother’s Day or birthday presents – and short trips. As men become increasingly label-conscious it’s unlikely they’ll put up much resistance to adding an afternoon somewhere they can stock up on Diesel and Superdry to a city break – especially if, as with Chic Outlet Shopping’s new Dublin package, you can twin it with a day at the races.
The easiest way to give clients their Julia Roberts moment – striding out with armfuls of shopping bags emblazoned with designer logos – is to send them to an outlet village. For many, it’s also the only remotely affordable way to buy designer too, with huge savings – sometimes up to 70% – on lines that would have been economically out of reach at the brands’ city centre stores.
The out-of-town location of the outlets mean a visit is best planned in advance, which gives you the opportunity to book clients a package that includes transport. And mall owners often throw in discount vouchers to pass on to clients to sweeten the deal.
Chic Outlet Villages is taking things one step further by creating bespoke packages for each of its nine Villages. They combine a shopping trip with a more classic sightseeing activity local to the outlet village. These include a day at the races at famous Irish track The Curragh, with shopping at Kildare Village near Dublin, and a shopping day at La Vallée Village near Paris combined with a visit to the Palais de Tokyo museum.
Chic Outlet Shopping offers net rates to the travel trade for its bespoke Shopping Packages and VIP products including its chauffeur services.
The Shopping Packages at all the Villages include a VIP Card for additional savings, a prepaid MasterCard gift card, which can be used in participating boutiques and restaurants, a two-course lunch or dinner and return tickets on the Shopping Express, the luxury coach service from the closest city centre locations to each of the Villages. These sit close to classic city break locations including London, Dublin, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Brussels, Frankfurt and Munich.
While all Villages have a strong presence from international brands, Chic Outlet Shopping works hard to ensure they keep a flavour of the destination, for example, Bicester Village, an hour outside London, has a pop-up British Designers Collective outlet, with pieces from home-grown talent including Jonathan Saunders. Find out more at the trade site that launched earlier this year, the Chic Travel Portal, at Chicoutletshopping.com/chictravel
Premium Outlets, the chain of more than 60 centres across the US, and sister brands Simon Malls and The Mills, offer an incentive programme where agents can earn by referring clients to outlets.
Most of the Shop and Stay packages on the website are commissionable, as are all the bookable transport services to outlets, and you can register to receive complimentary coupon books featuring your company name to give clients. Find out more at simon.com/traveltrade
Deck the halls and pour the gluhwein – Christmas markets provide a great shopping sales opportunity. In the central European heartland it’s hard to find a town that by the end of November doesn’t smell of cinnamon. Stalls decorated with fairy lights and holly offer handcrafted decorations, locally-made gifts, sweets, cakes and mulled wine. To help you decide which market might suit your clients, see our expert tips from new European operator Fred, which offers a range of tailor-made trips to markets in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary and Sweden.
Over-55s specialist Grand UK Holidays has added five Christmas markets tours to its festive holiday range, adding two UK locations and three in Europe. Sales director Harold Burke says: “The range of market stalls means customers are bound to find unusual and interesting gifts, decorations and local delicacies. And, as someone else is driving, they can enjoy a tipple of mulled wine after all that retail therapy!”
Leger Holidays has added to its already large programme of escorted options travelling by coach or air, adding a long seven-day break to northern Germany for market fiends, and a five-day Cruising Belgium and Holland itinerary visiting the markets of Brussels, Liege, Aachen and Valkenburg sailing on the three-star Amsterdam.
The Rhine and Danube both flow through prime Christmas Market territory. Titan Travel offers cruises on Uniworld ships on both rivers, and AmaWaterways offers a sailing from Nuremberg to Budapest visiting a range of markets.
Great Rail Journeys offers rail tours to Christmas markets, some of which take the train element beyond an A to B experience. The four-day Cologne & The Kaiser’s Carriage Christmas Markets tour features a ride to Wuppertal’s market on the Schwebebahn suspension railway in a historic carriage used by emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1900.
Add-on providers can give you extra opportunities to earn while clients spend, with commissionable shopping tours.
Do Something Different offers private half and full-day city tours in Marrakech visiting cultural sights and the souks, shopping tours in Dubai, Gibraltar and Tenerife’s capital Santa Cruz, and discount cards offering money off at attractions and shops in top retail locations such as Orlando, Los Angeles and Miami.
Attraction World has similar shopping tours and discount cards in a range of locations, including tours out of New York visiting the Hamptons and Long Island with visits to a shopping outlet. For those who want to live like a celebrity, it offers a bookable six-hour personal shopping experience with a stylist in London.
It’s also worth keeping an eye out for location-specific promotions such as tax-free shopping and shopping festivals to entice customers to try a destination or spur them on to book.
Dubai’s shopping festival runs through January and February, with special promotions, entertainment and competitions. The June to September Summer is Dubai campaign offers shopping vouchers with other freebies and discounts, alongside a second shopping festival running from June to July. There are plenty of opportunities to shop – in addition to traditional souks, Dubai is home to a range of malls including Dubai Mall, the largest in the world, with more than 1,500 shops.
If clients are dithering over whether to book a stopover, you could persuade them with Kuala Lumpur’s excellent shopping prospects, including 23 luxury malls and countless street markets, duty-free status and regular sales offering further discounts. The 1Malaysia Unified Sale runs from June 29 to September 1, and the End Of Year Sale from November 16 to January 5.
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