Shona Thorne’s team of “misfits” are the store’s greatest asset; staff members are encouraged to be individuals, empowered through training and Shona’s trust to take responsibility for vital functions such as managing social media, leading on web development (the business has a new website) and handling admin functions.
The store participates in vast amounts of supplier and skills training, while staff – who range from apprentices to professionals changing careers – are supported through qualifications such as NVQs and diplomas so their skillsets are complementary.
Staff are provided extra annual leave and financial backing to take as many as five or six educational trips a year to build their knowledge, while some attend or complete upwards of 50 supplier training courses every year.
Thorne is riding high after being named the UK and Ireland’s No.1 Travel Agency by TTG last year, and has grown its Facebook following to a remarkable 25,000. The store is redecorated frequently to reflect major events, holidays and supplier partnerships, for whom Thorne offers incredible bang for their buck – one cruise line gave Shona £500 for a promotion; Thorne booked 192 clients returning more than £45,000.
Customers and followers benefit from special event invitations and repeat booking rewards (referrals are tracked and rewarded), while the team always remember birthdays and anniversaries. With a repeat/referral rate of 84%, this attention to detail shows.
Hand-delivered tickets, online check-in and welcome home calls are standard. The agency also hosts a summer funday and a big Christmas party for customers.
Clients can also use the store’s iPads to delve deeper into various holiday options and styles – VR is coming soon too.
Thorne continues to raise thousands every year for Cash for Kids in Ayrshire, which supports underprivileged children in the community. But the team’s philanthropy spreads far and wide. They attend just about every school and community event, and open up their meeting room to the community on a weekly basis. They aim to give out 2,000 presents a year, with collections at Christmas and Easter. It is also a drop-off point for a local food bank.