Supermarket's "Can't Be Bothered" With Travel, Retail Guru Tells WTM Vision Conference - London Delegates


A leading retail expert has reassured the travel trade that supermarkets will not become travel agents as they “can’t be bothered”, although senior travel bosses disagreed as to the reasons why at this week’s WTM Vision Conference – London.

Former Selfridges Chief Executive Peter Williams told delegates at the CBI Conference Centre: “The supermarkets have not got into high street travel because of operational difficulties and it is a specialism.

“Supermarkets are simple. They have deskilled their business. For them to get into travel properly, they would need staff knowledge, and they can’t be bothered,” the ASOS Senior Independent Director said.

Delegates, led by The Co-operative Travel Managing Director Mike Greenacre, disagreed, saying that it was the low margins which were keeping supermarkets out of bricks and mortar travel.

In the final session - a panel discussion about the UK outbound and domestic market - Denis Wormwell, CEO of Shearings Holidays, agreed with Greenacre.

“We are working on 2.7% margins with inflation running at 5%. It is a very scary place to be in,” he said.

Wormwell quoted a colleague from outside the travel sector who said: “That’s a very long walk for a small beer”. Shearings has an average selling price of £300, making a profit of £8.20 on each holiday.

The panel concluded the industry must take cost out of the business to improve margins.

TUI Specialist Managing Director Clare Tobin said: “We need to grow the market and the margins are getting tougher, so costs will be the focus of the next five years. We need to find a more efficient way of operating.”

World Travel Market Chairman Fiona Jeffery said: “A key part of the WTM Vision brand is to foster intelligent and open debate. Bringing in senior speakers from outside the travel sector to offer different perspectives is proving a success.”

WTM Vision Conference – London was organised in association with Kingly Event Management and sponsored by corporate travel insurance firm Mapfre Assistance.

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