Richard SiddleONE look at who’s up and who’s down in the world of retailing is highly revealing when trying to understand how the British public is choosing to spend its disposable income.

The ability to be able to stand out from the crowd has never been more acute in modern-day retailing. But price is no longer the determining factor. Consumers are increasingly turning to companies, brands and services that make, or claim to make, their lives easier.

Just look at the winning retail brands of today. Tesco has built its empire basing everything it does on making life easier for its customers; all summed up by its advertising line ‘Every little helps’.

Carphone Warehouse is battering its rivals with initiatives like this week’s free Internet broadband offer. O2 may have its name on Arsenal football and England rugby shirts, but it’s losing share as customers don’t know what else it stands for.

So what does all this mean for the travel industry? Being able to connect with your customers is the key to success.

Travel agents should have the edge as they should know their customers better than anyone else. Any future strategy should be based, as David Speakman says, not on owning any beds or aircraft, but on really knowing your customers’ wants and needs.

It’s not rocket science but knowing your customers’ names, saying hello, thank you and asking how you can help are what customers expect but rarely get.

Trying to hook them in purely with the promise of the lowest possible price is no longer a winning strategy. Customers expect you to have the best value product or service available.

They are coming to you because of all the other things that you can do for them. Make their lives easier and better and they will come back time, and time again.