This Week: Olive Lounge Travel, Cross Hills, North Yorkshire

Travel agents Gillian Polyhos and Joanne Edwards joined forces in November 2015 to set up in business together as Olive Lounge Travel. After six months as homeworkers, they opened a high street shop in North Yorkshire, where they run Book Fizz Fridays and host afternoon teas. It’s all part of the ‘five-star’ experience, as director Gillian explains

Q. How did you open a high street shop so soon after starting a business together?
We started in a tiny office in my house. I was a former homeworker at Designer Travel and Joanne had come from Neil Rankin Travel. As the business grew, and we needed more space, we decided to look for a shop, which has always been the dream. The shop we chose had no competitors on the high street and had been empty for 18 months. Once we got past January and February, we could see how well the business was doing. We decided to take a leap of faith and do it.

Q. What sets your shop apart from other travel agencies, in terms of the look and feel?
When people come in, there is a lounge; rather than sitting clients straight at a desk, we wanted them to sit in a comfy chair. We have a mini-fridge, so we offer tea, coffee or fizz – it’s a nice touch that customers love. We have got [real] suitcases on the walls, as well as a picture of a palm tree. When customers go on holiday, they send us a postcard and we peg it on the tree. We had a visit by a supplier who said Olive Lounge Travel was like a five-star hotel. It’s all about the experience.

Q. What services have you introduced to give your shop the edge?
We’ve just opened an ‘occasions lounge’, where we can sit privately to deal with a group by appointment or a booking for a special occasion, wedding, honeymoon or stag party. We hold events in the lounge and have already staged a Saga afternoon tea. We also run Book Fizz Friday – giving away a bottle of fizz for every booking on a Friday.

Q. In your first year of trading, the business made £1 million in sales. What’s your aim for the second year?
We set ourselves a reasonable target for our first year and exceeded that by 75%, going into a seven-figure sum. We are extremely proud of how it’s gone. Hopefully next year, we will double this year’s bookings. We’ve got our fingers crossed because we are new to the area and it can only grow.

Q. Will you open another shop?
We do have our sights on another area, but you never know. At the moment, we want to concentrate on here and building the business up.

Q. You won the best newcomer award at The Global Travel Group Conference earlier this year. What’s your secret?
It was a big surprise to win and it’s great for clients to be able to see we have got an award. I just think it’s about service and the brand, and keeping in contact with the customers and being there for them.

Gillian’s sales tips

Keep in touch with your clients, so that you are always front of mind.

Create a memorable in-shop experience for customers.

Use videos on social media: they attract more likes than a holiday offer.