The market leader has dropped brochure racks for screens in its flagship new-look agency. Juliet Dennis visited the store in Kent

Thomson’s new ‘next-generation’ store will test if there is still a need for holiday brochures in high street agencies, according to retail director Kathryn Ward.

The company’s new flagship store in Bluewater Shopping Centre, Kent, which replaces two existing shops, boasts an ‘advice’ bar but no brochure rack.

Screens, not brochures

Instead, high-definition screens feature changing images, including weather information, destination videos and feeds from social media sites, while digital billboards show sales messages.

Brochure covers are shown on a wall display above the advice bar, and brochures are still stocked behind the counter to give out if necessary. Tui has also produced postcards with web links for agents to hand out to customers.

Ward said ditching the traditional brochure rack was a “sustainable” move for the future.

“Having customers taking home 15 brochures is not great from a sustainability point of view. We are moving to a more paperless environment, and it might be a postcard directing them to the website is enough.”

But she admitted that not stocking brochures at all would be premature and was mindful of the fact some customers still preferred a more traditional service.

Advice bar

Customers can use self-service PCs at the advice bar to search their own holiday, seek help from staff at the counter, or book an appointment to see a consultant at one of the desk booths.

Ward added: “The advice bar is a first in travel. Staff can serve two to three people at a time. Holidaymakers can surf our site and we can help them print e-tickets. You could argue people do this already but reassuring customers is where we excel.”

The store is one of relatively few in travel to feature a video wall instead of a conventional window display. The large screen, measuring three metres by two, shows bespoke videos of magical holiday moments.

“The main thing is to wow people so much we stay at the forefront of their minds,” said Ward.

Despite all the technology, Ward insisted the shop had avoided gimmicks. “It’s about integrating technology into the experience, and delivering service and a great-looking store. I can’t stress that enough,” said Ward. “Many retailers will deliver one or two of these but we are confident we are delivering all three.”