A Whitby travel agent who set up a sideline business selling hampers to staycationers in local holiday lets during the overseas travel downturn has expanded the venture further.
Michelle Stead, who is a partner at Getaway Travel, along with parents Anne and Glyn, in the seaside town, has now expanded the business and is selling hampers and local produce such as bottles of local gin, beer, soap and other goods in a dedicated space in the agency.
The hamper business started in June 2020, three months after the first lockdown.
Michelle said: “We were driving to my dad’s in York and brainstorming ideas in the car. My husband suggested doing hampers for visitors staying in local holiday accommodation.
“When we arrived, we registered the domain Whitby Hampers for £1 and it started from there.”
Michelle got in touch with holiday lettings companies that are based in the same street as her travel agency and started delivering hampers to local holiday lets ahead of guests’ arrival.
She said: “Whitby has changed so much over the last 10 years and our season is nearly all year round now to the town, so we saw an opportunity to take advantage of staycations.
“We initially started with providing welcome hampers full of local produce to the holidays lets, then developed a website with the help of a local grant to launch the gift hampers.
“We got an alcohol licence in August 2020 and, as things were still very uncertain for the travel industry and departures were literally trickling through, we decided to strip one side of the shop out and put a pop-up shop in selling all the local produce that we provide in our hampers.
“By doing this we got our name across for website orders for Christmas and also people were in the mind set of shopping local and supporting local.
“Although our clients couldn’t go away on holiday, they supported us by sending hampers to family and buying from the shop. Everybody loves talking about travelling, so having people coming into the shop gave us the opportunity to chat to customers about places we love and holidays.
“Had we not had the hamper shop in the office, we wouldn’t have seen many people other than clients amending holidays and through the difficult times it has given us a positive focus. The hampers business has enabled us to pay the rent and help with the bills.”
Local produce Michelle sells includes Yorkshire Pudding beer, Whitby Brewery Beer and the local Whitby Gin, as well as Whitby Sea Salt & Vinegar, cakes and biscuits by Bothams of Whitby plus the Whitby Soap Company and Skinningrove Country Wines.
“It’s been great to be able to support local businesses. On the travel side, things have started to pick up too. There are some good prices out there and we’ve now got to the point where we have brought back our two remaining members of staff to cover the travel side from Monday to Saturday. Sadly, we had to make one of the team redundant during the pandemic, which was really awful.
“One of the team came back this week and has already made two bookings. Things are starting to look up in travel, but we still plan to continue with Whitby Hampers.”
Find out more about Whitby Hampers here.