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Next-generation Thomson shops set for summer launch

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TUI Travel is set to launch next generation high street shops this summer, where customers will be able to browse holidays on a variety of connected devices while getting personal advice from sales staff.

The travel company, which operates under the Thomson and First Choice brands in the UK, says its Thomson shops will use technology to attract customers, putting the emphasis on service in a modern environment.

Coffee will be served and staff will be on hand to advise customers in the new-look shops as they research their holidays over self-service laptops, on an interactive table and map, over their own mobile device using free in-store wi-fi, either in shared areas or private booths, where images of their own chosen holiday will be projected. They can also look to giant video walls, measuring 2m x 3m, for inspiration.

Kathryn Ward, director of retail and financial services for TUI UK & Ireland, said: “Our next-generation store recognises the importance of people when it comes to choosing and booking a holiday, whilst integrating technology into the whole experience to really bring it to life.

“Customers will be able to immerse themselves in stunning, rich and evocative content as they research and browse our unique holidays in-store.”

The location of the first shop will be confirmed next month, ahead of a late summer opening. A further 10 shops will be refitted with the new design by Christmas, and the company plans to move 100 of its 700 UK high street shops to the new format in coming years.

A video illustrating the plans for the new store can be seen here.

TUI Travel has also unveiled a new smartphone app. The MyThomson app is designed to bring together all customers’ information about the holiday they have already booked, from check-in times to journey planning and destination guides.

TUI Travel last week reported a 1% drop in revenues to £5.4bn in the half-year to March 31 compared to the same time last year, and a 6% narrowing of pre-tax losses to £346m, from £367m last time. Its business grew, however, in both the UK, where sales were up by 5%, and the Nordic (+10%) markets, where online booking levels are higher. Online sales accounted for 42% of UK bookings and 68% of Nordic.

Our view: The travel business is one that has seen a particularly strong impact from the rise of online. Buying an experience, shoppers have found, can happen just as effectively online, while the internet has freed them to book flights and hotels directly themselves rather than through a travel company. However, service is a key area where travel agents may compete most effectively with online, and these new next-generation shops may well have something to say to the holidaymaker who simply finds it more convenient to ask for advice face-to-face. We will be watching with interest.

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