Unless you’ve been on a cake-free, booze-free, cheese-free health kick this January, you too will have been concerned by recent developments on the high street: Patisserie Valerie in administration; Oddbins off-licences on the verge of collapse; and now Tesco is to remove the deli counters at more than 40 of its supermarkets.
Nine thousand threatened jobs is a serious issue but, on a more personal level, I shall rue the loss of a gleaming counter laden with tiny pork pies.
Who now will encourage me to try the unlikely combo of Cheddar cheese with chilli and lime, or help me choose the perfect burgers for the BBQ?
Nor does the move seem a sensible one for Tesco. Doing away with a bespoke service and products that cannot easily be bought online risks large Tesco stores becoming more like the very discount supermarkets that threaten them – without the cheaper prices.
It’s a cautionary tale for independent travel agents who, like Tesco, face rising costs, online rivals and increasing high street competition.
Good agents create value for their customers a little like a deli counter does – getting clients to try new things, giving expert tips and adding extra touches. When times are tougher, though, it can be harder to stick to this service-over-price approach.
And as travel bosses at our Industry Leaders Forum last week agreed, while there are many positives in the market at the moment, there is also “softness” in key areas.
But whether it’s ramping up staff training, moving marketing upscale or turning away cheap business, agents would do well to resist blurring the lines between their service-led model and that of the online discounters and price-matchers.
Agents with the clearest sense of their place in the market will surely be the ones who bring home the bacon.
Pippa Jacks is group editor of TTG Media