Baldwins Travel, one of the UK’s oldest travel agency chains, has been bought by a Manchester-based investment group.
Inc & Co said its ‘multi-million-pound takeover’ of Baldwins, based in Sussex and Kent, would secure the future of the 120-year-old business.
The new owners said its investment will allow Baldwins ‘to navigate its way out of the difficulties presented to the sector during the pandemic’.
Baldwins has shops in Tunbridge Wells, Cranbrook, Lewes, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Tenterden, Tonbridge and Uckfield.
Jack Mason, Group CEO of Inc & Co, said: “We’re really excited to announce Inc & Co’s acquisition of Baldwins Travel, and we’ll be warmly welcoming the brand into our growing portfolio of businesses.
“Although it’s been a difficult year for the wider sector, we’re delighted to be in a position to secure the futures of Baldwins’ employees and branches across Kent and Sussex.
“Since our founding in 2019, we’ve grown the number of businesses we oversee and our employee headcount, from just 5 to 750 across 15 brands. We’re really excited to bring Baldwins’ established brand heritage and the expertise of its long-serving staff into the Inc & Co family.
“The Inc & Co team will be bringing our expertise in digital and e-commerce to the table – to re-ignite Baldwins’ offering and helping the team to accommodate pent-up holiday demand, both online and for their loyal customers in-store.
“Baldwins is a great business with excellent management teams already in place, which is why it will very much remain a family-run operation. Our plans looking forward to 2022 will see us invest in its tech infrastructure to ensure its online presence is on par with its in-store experience.”
Through the deal, Inc & Co will take on any existing payments due, tour operators will receive all monies owing and all customers will be refunded any outstanding payments.
Chris and Nick Marks – former Baldwins owners – will continue to remain within the business.
They said: “Being a family-owned and run business, we’ve had many very happy years at the helm of Baldwins. We have benefitted from fabulous long-lasting relationships with our customers, our team members and our trade suppliers.
“Going into the pandemic, we were a strong and successful business, but many industries and businesses have been upturned by Covid, and none more so than the travel industry. We were the first to be impacted and look to be the last to be able to recover.
“We have sought to ensure the excellent name of Baldwins Travel can flourish once again, which is why we are really pleased to be joining the Inc & Co team; who not only have a huge passion for travel but also have ambitions to invest in and develop the team, the brand and also the digital potential of the business.
“Throughout the past months we have temporarily closed shops – making use of the furlough scheme – and as such, have been unable to respond to correspondence. We apologise for any concern that this has caused and thank customers for their patience.
“We are really pleased to be moving over to Inc & Co to help guide the business forward to new greater heights with the wider expertise from its portfolio of businesses and we would like to thank all our clients over the years for their custom.”
Inc & Co doesn’t own any other travel brands, but a spokesperson said: “There are some exciting talks currently taking place.”
So what is Baldwins’ connection to tennis super-star Emma Raducanu?
Baldwins’ new owners Inc & Co have invested in more than a dozen other businesses from digital to retail to food since launching in 2019.
One of the companies is Skylab, described as a ‘digital innovation agency’, which posted on the group’s Facebook page that it had supported the Lawn Tennis Association in getting Emma Raducanu to the final of the US Open’.
Skylab’s role was to collect match data for the Lawn Tennis Association Performance Analysis team, which helps the LTA to look at different tennis tactics and trends to assist the performance of players, including Emma.
Spokesperson Chloe Waddington added: “The information assists coaches to prepare their players throughout tournaments too, including the use of opponent analysis, whereby you can assess a players game to inform match strategy and, as we’ve seen with the US Open, win major tournaments.”