For manager Vanessa Rowley, opening Barrhead Travel’s first store outside of Scotland represented “the most challenging few years” of her career.
Launching south of the border would be tough enough with low brand awareness, but entering a bustling city where Thomas Cook, Dawson & Sanderson and Tui all resided made the task even more daunting.
Luckily for Barrhead, Rowley and her team grabbed the opportunity in 2015 and never looked back. After a hugely successful first two years, growth continued in 2018, with revenue up almost £2 million since the store opened.
Eight of its 15 staff have worked at the shop since day one and are constantly thinking of ways to deliver for the customer, from helping track down lost luggage to always asking for room upgrades and special treats.
Rowley ensures a hands-on approach and doesn’t hide away behind a desk herself, imbuing her team with the mantra “we are not order takers, we are travel specialists”.
No wonder she was chosen last year as the face of Barrhead’s recruitment drive video for its new English stores. She also goes into primary schools to talk about her job and has worked with Newcastle College to organise a apprenticeship programme when the store opened.
Hard work and hitting targets are rewarded in fun ways, with early finishes a popular one when nights out on ‘the Toon’ are planned.
The team has plenty of innovative and friendly ways to bring in customers – with a free buffet from Thursday to Sunday, one that must be rather unique.
There’s also a Golden Ticket giveaway each weekend, but if you can’t make it in and staff find you a cracking deal, they will text you.
The team works closely within the community of retailers in Eldon Square Shopping Centre– partnering with a fragrance shop last summer to promote air travel-friendly 100ml perfume bottles, with the store offering vouchers for Barrhead and vice-versa.
More ingenuity came in November, offering discounts to young ravers who had been to a Pete Tong gig – managing to gain about 50 new customers.
The team also raises money for local charity, The Sunshine Fund, helping to improve the lives of disabled young people across the north east of England.