Barrhead Travel President Jacqueline Dobson has confirmed the retailer is planning a nationwide expansion of its retail chain.
It has already earmarked several locations where it is planning to open new shops, with further details to be announced in the first quarter of next year.
“We are not going to be in every single high street in the UK but we are definitely looking to expand. We have the investment, the commitment is there,” said Jacqueline.
“We are not putting a number on our investment, when we find a location that is right, we will invest.
“We know where we want to be, but it depends on a number of factors, such as staffing and also finding the right location.”
Asked if Barrhead was planning to acquire existing agencies or open brand new shops, she said: “We are looking at any opportunities.”
Currently, Barrhead has 90 retail stores; 50 are wholly-owned and 40 are independently-owned Managed Service Travel Partners (MSTP), which operate under their own brands.
Barrhead’s stores are mainly concentrated in Scotland and the north and northwest of England, with a few agencies on the south coast and a shop and calls centre in Belfast. In terms of new retail outlets, Jacqueline said Barrhead is ‘looking all over’.
Barrhead’s homeworking division, Brilliant Travel, is also looking to recruit more homeworkers and more MSTPs.
Brilliant Travel has grown its membership by 33% this year to a total of 40, and it has taken on 21% more MSTPs. Referring to its homeworker recruitment drive, Brilliant Travel Director Linda Pyle said she would like to see the business expand by another third next year.
But she added: “We need to make sure they [any new recruits] have travel experience, and we have to ascertain what their business plan is. We don’t have the resources to train people without travel experience, when we have done that in the past it has not worked out for them or for us.
“Those who join us need to be able to sell our product mix, they need to embrace what we are offering, which we are continuing to enhance.
Linda said Barrhead’s expansion into the south of England had raised its profile nationwide, enabling it to attract more product for its agents to sell. “More people know the name Barrhead now,” she said.
Early next year, Barrhead will launch a USA division to expand its offering to the States. Staffed by a specialist team of 10 led by Head of Longhaul Jonathan Munro, it will also put together an agents’ training programme to give them more confidence to sell the US.
“We’re already successfully selling destinations like Las Vegas, New York and Florida, but we have realised agents aren’t so confident selling places such as the Deep South and Illinois, so we are putting together a training programme,” said Sales and Marketing Director Nicki Tempest-Mitchel “All of our network will get access to all of the offers and all of the training.”
Barrhead is also planning a big push on river cruises, with a plan to get more agents onboard ships to experience the product over the next year. One cruise line has already promised 20 cabins for Barrhead staff and Nicki said she was negotiating ship visitors with several more.
“We have lots of customers on our database that would love a river cruise,” said Nicki. “We are going to do more fam trips, more training, to make sure there’s at least one person in every branch to drive the agenda.
“We will definitely accelerate river cruise sales next year.”