Whether it’s a strategic choice or a forced decision, relocating an agency branch requires a lot of thought but can benefit sales if done correctly. Andrew Doherty asks businesses that have recently moved for their top tips.
Travel Four Seasons
Established in 2013 by Sean Fletcher, Travel Four Seasons’ move came about when its landlord wanted to reclaim the premises. The store relocated from Hemel Hempstead’s high street at the end of 2017 to the Maylands Plaza business park three miles away.
“It’s very expensive to have a travel agency on the high street, so we took a leap of faith and moved to a business park where the rates were cheaper. If you start to spend more than 15% of your income on rates, then your profit margins are going to take a hit,” says Fletcher.
Clients were informed of the move via a mailout and frequent social media posts over the course of six months while Fletcher arranged the logistics.
“It’s advisable to get phone lines and broadband installed at a new shop well before it’s needed – engineers don’t always show up on time,” he warns.
Despite the move from its high street location, Fletcher says clients were happy to make the journey to the new store and adds that its design helped to retain the high-end bookers.
“Because it is three times bigger than the last store and has a lounge area, we now do client evenings that have already had great feedback. And in summer we are going to set up a marquee in the plaza to connect with residents.”
With 200 flats above the store and an announcement that Tesco, McDonald’s and Aldi will all open in the park, Fletcher is confident that business will grow in the coming years.
“We will have more services at this location compared with our high street branch. With Tesco opening, we hope to see figures go through the roof,” he says.
Jo Richards, director at Tivoli Travel, moved from working from home to opening a high street agency in Mirfield.
“With homeworking, it’s a lot harder for clients to come to visit you and I think I lost a couple of bookings because of that. Expanding your client database can be more difficult for homeworkers than if you are on the high street too,” she says.
Richards explains that she was attracted to the lively nature of Mirfield’s town centre, citing new businesses, easy accessibility from the main road running between Dewsbury and Huddersfield and high levels of footfall as the main draws.
“My advice for other agents thinking of opening a store would be to place their agency in a town that they know has a lot of footfall with lots of local businesses. Make sure you know the market in your area and cater your product to their needs.”
Since the branch opening in May 2017, Richards says turnover has doubled.
“People tend to spend more money in store too. We’ve had a couple of bookings touching the £20,000 mark that I probably wouldn’t have got when I was a homeworker. I find that people trust you more when they can come into a store and interact with you face-to-face.”
When designing the shop, Richards hired locals to build the brochure racks, decorate the store and install the electrics, stating that it would ultimately bring business back to her.
“I’m a big believer in supporting local business and I try to support those in Mirfield as best I can,” she says.
Thomas Cook Westfield Stratford City opened in 2016 following a move from the Stratford Centre.
Store manager Peter Ryan says the company felt that relocating would ultimately benefit sales.
“Thomas Cook decided to look at relocating the store into Westfield based on the demographic change as it was a more up-and-coming area with more footfall than where the previous store was located.”
Ryan asserts the need to find the balance between retention and attracting new customers.
“We had to find a retail space that wouldn’t just achieve good footfall but would also be close enough to the older branch to encourage our loyal clients to come to the store.”
In order to inform clients of the move, Ryan ensured a mailout was sent to the branch’s database and the team held in-store events in the new location.
“It was important to touch on the fact that the same team would be in the new store too as clients have grown to trust them.”
Sales have taken off since the move, says Ryan, adding that January 2018 was the best month since 1979 and was up 30% on 2017. He says a key reason for this is the extended opening hours with Westfield allowing the store to stay open later then it could in the Stratford Centre.
“We now trade from 10am to 9pm on a weekday and from 9am to 9pm on Saturdays. The older store only stayed open until 5.30pm.”
Travelmaker by Design began life as a private lounge area for clients booking high-end holidays at the agency’s Don Street branch in Jersey.
Carl Winn, head of travel at Travelmaker, says strong sales warranted the sub-brand to break out into a store of its own.
“The new agency is in an area of St Helier with the second busiest pedestrian street on the island. There are a lot of high-net-worth individuals that work here too,” he says.
To market the move, the team issued a press release that was featured by the local newspaper profiling the branch staff – two of whom moved from the Don Street store – and showcasing the product the agency would sell.
“We also have Anita Rani, the television presenter, coming in April to host an evening in the agency. We’ll be inviting both our new and old clients to this,” Winn says.
Since the branch opened in October 2017, sales have been strong, Winn says, having surpassed the £1.8m target set for January 2018.
“We were 30% up on what we predicted. We even had a £60,000 Mauritius booking from a new customer of ours. Overall our average booking value is around £8,000.”
Although the agency is a Kuoni partner store, Winn says they had a lot of freedom when designing it.
“Kuoni wants to know how their branding will look and once they agreed with our plans, we were free to do what we wanted,” he says.
Kuoni has relocated its High Street Kensington agency to the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square.
Helen Roberts, sales director at Kuoni, explains that the company wanted to attract a different demographic.
“Peter Jones is part of the John Lewis brand and has very loyal customers; many Chelsea residents use it as their corner shop. For us, it’s exciting as it introduces Kuoni to a whole new customer base.”
The Kensington team will also be relocated to the new store and Roberts points out that agency owners should recognise how a move could affect staff.
“Explain why they’re moving and the difference it will make to their commute and working hours. The main thing is to excite them about the new location and the opportunity of attracting new customers,” she says.
Customer retention was important for the High Street Kensington branch and the team worked closely with Peter Jones on joint marketing campaigns as well as personally contacting its client database. Prior to the official opening, a pop-up store helped to show loyal clients what the new agency would look like.
“Shopping areas change and evolve over time, so we have to keep an eye on the retail landscape, neighbouring brands and consumer shopping trends. We look at our current store network and travel agent partners to establish if there are any ‘gaps’ in the portfolio in terms of customer catchment.”