Pop-up agencies can be great for attracting new clients or scoping out business in a different location, explains Andrew Doherty
For agents looking to trial an area before committing to expansion there, or to increase brand awareness and attract new clients, pop-up shops can offer a cost-effective alternative to investing in a new travel agency on the high street. We speak to three agents who have used pop-up shops to find out how they work, and the business benefits they have delivered.
For Sue Hunter, owner of Braunton Travel in north Devon, running a pop-up store helped her transition from homeworker to setting up her first high street agency.
“Braunton is an old-fashioned village in Devon, and my clients wanted to meet with me face-to-face, so I rented an office for two days a week above a garage,” she explains. “It helped maintain my presence in the town and allowed me to test the waters before moving in to a retail space permanently. It also proved that I could make enough money to pay the rent.”
The venture was successful, leading Hunter to open a permanent shop in 2014. With newfound confidence, she decided to expand with another pop-up agency in Lynton, about 20 miles away, in the tourist information centre.
“Its central location in the town helped ensure good footfall,” she says. “The office also had information on the other retail units in the area. I didn’t make any big bookings there, but I did attract some new clients.”
For agents looking to set up their own pop-up, Hunter advises: “Ensure your liability insurance covers you for working remotely, and that you have access to decent Wi-Fi. Make sure your laptop and CRM can operate remotely too. Have good signage and ensure the pop-up location doesn’t place you in an area where people won’t see you.”
Pop-up stores aren’t limited to being located in buildings or offices – local events and festivals offer a great opportunity to sell holidays and increase brand awareness too, believes Jackie Steadman, founder of TravelTime World.
“We attend local events [in the Berkhamsted area] such as market days, fetes and charity golf and tennis tournaments. We’ve also purchased three high-quality industrial gazebos, as well as flags, pull-up banners and decorative tables, all with our logo on.”
The agency hosted 50 clients at an open-air concert last month, using its gazebos to form a private enclosure where clients could mingle with tour operator co-sponsors.
“Although we might not get any bookings on the day, unless we have a specific offer with one of the tour operators, we see bookings coming in the weeks afterwards,” says Steadman. “It also keeps our name and company at the forefront of clients’ minds.”
She advises agents to be aware of the costs associated with setting up shop at local events, which could be anywhere between £25 for a market stall and £1,000 to become a sponsor.
Roger Benn, managing director at Benchmark Travel – the parent company of The Travel Centre Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge – says agency owners must be creative when coming up with themes for pop-up store days.
“We turned a church car park into the seaside for the day and had a beach party to advertise the fact we were taking over an agency. We brought sand and buckets and spades, and wore lifeguard uniforms. These events are about rewarding our clients and reminding them that we’re here as a business, ready to offer our expertise and excellent levels of service.”
Benn adds that pop-up events are an excellent platform for the agency to promote its products, with bookings often coming later down the line.
He advises agency owners to consider offering discounts to help convert inquiries made on the day of an event into bookings. “We follow up on inquiries by offering money off holidays booked in a certain timeframe after our events.”
Jet2holidays’ Alan Cross on how the company’s mobile travel agencies offer an affordable way for agents to trial a pop-up
What facilities do you offer agents?
We have two mobile travel agencies and four gazebos that can be customised with logos and branding. The mobile agency trailers are equipped with Wi-Fi, booking stations, 50-inch televisions and kitchens, while the gazebos are high-quality with doors and windows. We also have five members of our team available to help who are specially trained to operate the pop-ups.
How much does it cost?
We don’t charge anything to rent our gazebos or trailers. Agencies need to put together a business briefing, detailing how they will promote the event, what staff will be working on the day and if they expect to take any bookings.
What are the benefits of the concept?
We target independent high street agents and homeworkers. The main objectives are to make bookings, collect data and raise brand awareness. We also help with the costs of the more expensive shows by bringing in a local hotel or tourist board to partner with the agents.
It’s important to spread the word about the location of your pop-up agency, says Braunton Travel’s Hunter. “To advertise my first pop-up, I printed 5,000 leaflets and spent a month putting them in every single door in Braunton. It really helped me fill my database. With more traditional clients, you must use traditional marketing methods.”
Benn says becoming involved with a local business organisation can help agents to promote their pop-up shop. “I’m a member of a rotary club, which allows us to piggyback their social media channels and reach a wider audience. We also raise awareness of our pop-up stands through free local magazines and newspapers.”
By increasing brand awareness, helping to draw in new business and helping agents save money, it seems pop-ups can be big business for agents.
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