Agents are missing out on sales because they are not doing enough to attract customers, a leading independent convenience retailer has claimed.

Speaking at the inaugural Triton overseas conference, Jonathan James told delegates how his chain of four Budgens convenience stores in Cambridgeshire has boomed, despite the threat from superstores such as Tesco.

He said agents could learn much from independents in the grocery sector who face similar threats from multiples and online shopping.

“I stood outside Going Places the other day and asked 10 people where the nearest travel agency was – eight of them pointed in another direction.

“Then I was looking at the cards in the window for 11 minutes. The lady inside was looking back at me, but she didn’t come out,” he said.

James criticised agents for failing to make the most of impulse sales, describing how he stood in a queue outside a chocolate shop before Mothers Day. He said there was a travel agency next door, but no Mothers Day-themed offers on show.

Agencies can also do more to create a better atmosphere for buying, James claimed. “You’ve got to whet customers’ appetites with some in-store theatre,” he said. “I went to an agency in Peterborough where there were airline seats for people to sit in, and a classic American car.”

Use of window cards was also criticised, with James claiming price is only a promotion if it is the cheapest.

Delegates were urged to invest in in-store interactive technology to allow customers to find out more about a holiday rather than going home and doing it online.

James stressed buying a holiday from an independent agent should be a fun experience.