Kuoni plans to open new stores after Covid closures

Kuoni’s managing director has unveiled plans to open more stores across the UK, despite concerns over the future of the high street.

The operator had about 50 of its own stores before Covid, but closed 20 branches during the pandemic including both high street shops and John Lewis concessions.

Managing director Derek Jones told Travel Weekly he now plans to expand Kuoni’s retail portfolio in 2022 as the industry recovers from the pandemic.

Jones said the company has been able to renegotiate “much more advantageous” terms on almost all of its remaining 20 stores, prompting it to explore further opportunities.

The new stores will not only sell Kuoni products, but also specially curated third-party packages from Kuoni’s partners including active holiday provider Neilson and luxury operator Club Med.

“There will be three elements to our product line,” explained Jones. “The first will be the core Kuoni product, the second will be the specialists within our group which we’re selling more of through the high street and the third will be a big expansion of the premium third-party products that we’ll add into the mix as well.”

Jones added that the new branches might not necessarily be in the most sought-after locations in towns and cities across the UK because high streets don’t have as much footfall as they used to, but he doesn’t think this will hamper sales.

“The other thing that changed during lockdown was the whole high street rental market has shifted, the high street has changed again, there’s less confidence in the high street.

“That means we don’t need to be in prime locations; we don’t need people walking past the window and dropping in – and most people don’t just drop in for a £10,000 holiday anyway, it’s a much more considered purchase than that,” he said.

One of Kuoni’s newest stores will open on Aberdeen’s high street, where the company has found a unit with “great terms”, said Jones.

This store will open its doors to the public in the coming weeks, almost exactly one year after Kuoni’s concession store within the Aberdeen branch of John Lewis closed.

Jones said the scale of Kuoni’s retail expansion will depend on how profitable the first few openings are.

“We’ll be driven by the experience of doing it,” he said. “If we do that and see that it’s generating new revenue for us, then we’ll continue.”

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