Inc Retail Questions Whether Failure to Adapt is Behind Travel Store Closures, Not COVID
Following yesterday’s announcement that travel firm Tui will close almost 50 of its UK high street stores retail group, Inc Retail says it’s a mistake to blame COVID, given ABTA research published three years ago confirmed four out of five people were already choosing to book their breaks online, rather than in store.
Inc Retail managing director Dan Shaw says that a failure to keep pace with buying habits is endemic within the sector and Tui’s closures could be a bellwether for the industry if it refuses to evolve the in store experience.
The retail expert said, “I think it’s interesting that Tui announced the closing of 48 stores at a time when a lot of people and families across the UK are planning or at least thinking about holidays abroad. I don’t believe that the closing of stores is directly related to COVID, as retail is due to open in a matter of weeks, so why do we see the closures now?
“TUI are failing, like other many high street travel brands, to adapt to buying habits that have come to be normal over recent years. If ABTA were saying that the vast majority of people want to book online more than three years ago, I would question what changes or innovations had been made in-store in response to that.
“Our own research shows us that consumers want choice. They want to enjoy the experience of buying a holiday and not feel pressured by a salesperson sat behind a desk. The typical holiday buying experience in store is dull and unexciting for many.
“High street travel operators need to adapt to buying habits by embracing how consumers want to book a holiday. We need to see welcoming stores, with iPads for customers to browse the typical glossy magazine ‘on their own’.
“Modern consumers want immersive experiences. This should be easy for travel brands to embrace. Selecting a particular destination to celebrate and highlight with in-store food and drink can bring a destination alive. Want to sell more breaks to Mexico for example? Serve up burritos with a live mariachi band, provide holiday ideas and showcase excursions for Cancun.
“Consumers have learnt how to browse for holidays on their computers, share with friends and get ideas from Facebook, but yet we expect them to sit behind a counter in a store, with the sales person holding all the info behind their screen, taking the power from the customer. This breaks down trust. We should empower customers to come into a store, use an iPad to explore ideas, pick locations from around the world and even share on social media with friends instantly.”