Miles Morgan, managing director, Miles Morgan Travel

Having previously run Tui Travel’s distribution arm for a year or two, I have watched the retail makeovers of Thomas Cook and Thomson over the past few months with considerable interest.

Their first iterations appeared to show total obsession with Apple, with talk about the ‘Apple experience’ and iPads in the front of their stores.

Unless things have changed since my day, the game plan is selling holidays, not IT kit. Apple wants you to try its tablets to show how great they are, but what is the benefit to a travel agency?

With some tablets selling for less than £100, most people have their own, so why would they go to an agent for something you can do at home?

It’s good to talk

The main reason people go into a travel agent is for a brochure or to talk to someone.

Thomson certainly seems to have grasped this in its latest store with their advice bar, but then it has added an interactive desk. This is a gimmick. Who is it aimed at and why go into an agency to use one?

Thomson has also installed a huge screen outside the store to attract clients. Good on it. It is taking travel’s biggest asset, our product, and bringing it to life – and finally getting out of Apple’s shadow.

I recently visited a new Thomas Cook store. Unlike Thomson, the shop was cold and uninviting. It had none of the wow of a Thomson window and a cold minimalist look that failed to sell our exciting product.

Build a shop for clients

I read a quote recently from Bill Munro, the founder of Barrhead Travel. He called on agents not to neglect their shop environment but to spend money to attract customers. I could not agree more.

My starting point is first to understand your clients. Who are you trying to attract? Once you know that, build a shop with those clients 100% in mind.

With my agencies, I don’t have the budget of Thomson or Cook but I spend my money creating a welcoming, friendly environment where the hero of the shop is not the latest tech, but my staff.

We have spent money on attractive windows, comfy seats (we get lots of comments) and good-quality coffee – for our high spenders there is nothing worse than cheap coffee.

January is nearly upon us, but it’s never too late to make over your shop and window.

It need not cost as much as you imagine – think chairs from Costco, artefacts from eBay and desks from auctions. On a miserable January day, it will make your shop look like a ray of sunshine and just the place to book a holiday.

I think January sales will be better again this year, so we will be ready with lots of marketing, a smart shop fit and, most importantly, a warm welcoming smile from my brilliant sales teams.

In travel retailing it’s all about the staff – not gimmicky shop fit-outs.