Virgin Holidays is to double its outlets in high-street chains by next year but has denied this represents a switch away from the trade.
The operator hopes to increase its seven outlets in Debenhams and Tesco stores to 14. The first opened last December.
Sales and operations director Stewart Baird said the company had seen a significant hike in sales from customers living in a 20 to 30 mile radius of the stores as a result of brochure pick-ups, rather than in-store bookings.
“Each one is moving 2,000 brochures a week. It’s about getting more brochures into the market and getting our brand out there. They have worked really well for us. We will try to double it by next year,” said Baird.
But he stressed the move was not a sign the company was trying to change its business mix. “Our direct business has not increased over the last 18 months,” he said.
Around 75% of Virgin Holidays’ sales are from ‘controlled’ channels, mainly agents, according to Baird, and the operator already has long-term distribution relationships with Stella Travel Services and The Co-operative Travel Group.
Baird added: “This is not about being picky about where you get your sales. We want to grow our business and we have got seats to fill. We are in double-digit growth for this year and have to maintain that. We want to focus our efforts on agents that support us.”
The company has also stepped up its marketing this year, with four series of TV advertising planned, compared with two last year. The latest and third tranche of advertisements is now to feature Charlotte Church.