When Lancashire agent Shaun Rowley was let go from his Co-operative Travel agency, an unconventional offer led to a thriving new business
In June last year, Shaun Rowley received the unfortunate news that along with some 2,500 other Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel employees, he was to be made redundant.
Rowley had worked at the branch for 20 years. Thankfully, there was little time for him to feel downcast about the situation, as within a matter of weeks an exciting business proposition had been offered to him.
He was approached by a customer of 15 years - a local businessman - who suggested that the two of them open their own travel agency.
Rowley accepted the offer, and in September 2013 Travelcare World was born. Together with two other Co-op Travel managers from the local area who were also made redundant, Rowley helps run the agency on a day-to-day basis, while his customer-turned-business partner has assumed more of a behind-the-scenes approach.
“It’s been very positive,” he says. “We’ve all loved the challenge and learnt something new. It has always been a dream of mine to open a travel agency and I couldn’t have done any better than working with Lynn [Hilliard] and Caroline [Foulkes].”
“It’s a shop that’s modern and high-spec. We’ve got the materials to bring a holiday to life”
The agency is located in Poulton-le-Fylde, a market town of some 18,000 people in Lancashire, just two miles from where Rowley lives. “It’s a small town in an affluent area,” he explains. He hopes the agency, which specialises in tailor-made travel, will make waves in the area with its high-tech approach.
“It’s a shop that’s modern and high-spec. We have a 60-inch plasma screen where we can promote holidays and a 3D, smart TV where we can display a customer’s holiday; we’ve got the materials to bring a holiday to life.”
Much of Travelcare World’s clientele is formed of loyal locals, though Rowley also notes the agency has a customer base that spans much of the UK. “Our business has definitely developed through recommendations,” he says.
Aside from the time-honoured tradition of word-of-mouth, the store generates business through local connections and networking.
Rowley says: “We’ve got really good relationships with all the local businesses, who have come to us because of how passionate we are about travel.” He attends breakfast club meetings run by the local professional football club for nearby businesses. “It’s a place where we can promote ourselves to other members; it’s networking really.” And manager Caroline helps bring in business through her ties with the Fleetwood Rotary Club.
The agency exploits social media, using Facebook and Twitter to expand its reach and publicise deals to customers, while Rowley and the team also work with operators to personalise marketing materials for the company, which are then distributed.
While there are several local competitors, Rowley says business is booming. “Obviously we want more growth, but we’ve exceeded our targets. We bring the passion, the knowledge and the expertise to our customers and we offer all services, including a bureau de change; it’s a one-stop shop.”
The future looks increasingly positive too, with a second branch on the cards. “Within 12 months we’d like to have a new shop,” he says. “We want to stay local and to replicate the same feel of our Poulton-le-Fylde branch.”