Opinion: Is February the new January?

Opinion: Is February the new January?

Miles Morgan says January is seeing a less pronounced spike in business as consumer behaviour changes and peak campaigns focus more on brand building than deals

One of the first columns I wrote for Travel Weekly was about excuses for poor sales performance and, this January, a few people have again trotted some of them out.

My favourite one is: “The Black Friday pre-Christmas sales have meant everyone is spent up on their credit cards.”

What a lot of tosh! The retailers involved even admitted that while it was a sales success, it was not a profit winner, and had just brought forward sales at a lower margin.

Judging by the calls from suppliers on almost a weekly basis asking nervously “how’s business?”, January was not as successful as most people had hoped.

All change

So could February be the new January? Having reviewed our performance since our business started eight years ago, there is a definite pattern.

While January and the peak booking season is still just that, it is not the huge spike it once was.

Customers are also not what they were; they are more tech savvy and we are living in an “impulse-purchase” world. Customers expect to do what they want, when they want – and this includes when they book.

So what does this mean for us?

The industry can be applauded for really getting out there from a marketing perspective in January.

Not long ago, DFS and the like outshone our industry with their TV advertising in our peak booking period, but that didn’t happen as much this year.

Well done to P&O Cruises, Thomson, Thomas Cook and, may I suggest, even ourselves at Miles Morgan Travel for banging the travel drum. It helps everyone in the industry by getting holidays to the top of people’s minds.

Listen to reason

While this was good, a lot of the marketing was branding and image building. The big reasons to ‘book now’ were not as strong.

You may recall the old Lunn Poly “getaway” TV ads, which focused on money off. You might not have liked them, but it gave a reason to go out and book that day.

We have had another good start to the year, but looking at our sales, we created a lot of them through our own activity, focused on reasons to book today, limited offer dates, group allocations filling up quickly, or just an amazing price.

Clearly, the industry messages did not influence enough people to buy in January.

So what is the outlook? I am still confident of a good year and February could be the new January (certainly by last week’s sales). The economy and job situation is better than last year and inflation is under control.

Maybe all that January activity will plant seeds that will bear fruit across the year. Whatever happens, do not delude yourself with excuses if your sales are poor – do something about it.

Every day is a new opportunity to attract customers, but they will only come if you give them a reason, such as specialist product, service, exclusivity or price. But without something to hang your hat on, you’ll be making excuses for a long time to come.


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