A high-flying travel firm which has opened 10 new stores in the last 12 months has strengthened its management team to cope with the rapid growth of the business.
Hays Travel North West, which is the UK’s fastest growing independent travel agency and has its Head Office in Wrexham’s Lord Street and stores in Connah’s Quay, Flint and Mold, has promoted two talented and experienced store bosses to take on the new regional manager posts.
Simone Murphy, who was in charge of the Wrexham branch will oversee the Liverpool and Wirral operations and Toni Smith, the former Hays Travel Bolton branch manager, will be responsible for managing the firm’s North Wales and Manchester stores.
The posts were created to support retail sales director Lindsey Barber in response to the sudden growth in new branches and will in turn lead to the recruitment of two new store managers in Wrexham and Bolton.
Hays Travel North West launched a major expansion scheme at the end of last year and the firm now has 32 branches across the North West and North Wales and this is expected to rise to 50 within the next 18 months.
The latest push has been in the Cheshire and Greater Manchester region with a new store opened in Didsbury, and new units in Rochdale, Macclesfield, Northwich, Formby, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bury, Cheadle, Oldham and Runcorn identified with some already undergoing refurbishments ready for opening before Christmas.
The knock on effect of Hays Travel North West’s hefty expansion is the creation of at least 50 jobs with more on the horizon and a jump in turnover within 12 months from more than £50m to the predicted end of 2018 turnover of around £73m.
Lindsey said both Toni and Simone are the perfect duo to help manage the firm’s growing portfolio and help maintain the ongoing success.
She explained: “We only wanted to recruit internally. Toni and Simone have worked for us for a long time and have been waiting for that opportunity to progress.
“They are both very experienced and a great example to our apprentices. For instance with Simone if you look at her profile she came here as an apprentice.
“She’s come from the first step on the ladder right up to becoming a regional manager. It shows what you can become and the opportunities on offer.
“Both Toni and Simone will each be responsible for up to 20 shops, driving sales and making sure services are excellent in each branch.
“They will also be responsible for recruitment, standards and driving performance.
“They’ve both started their roles now and have been around each shop meeting the teams. They’ve also spent time at head office with every department you can think of so they are ready to hit the ground running.”
Simone, 29, had set her sights on a management role from the moment she started her career at Hays Travel North West 13 years ago.
She said: “I started as an apprentice at the Bebington store when I was 16 and I’ve worked my way up to management level.
“I always knew I wanted to work in travel and I loved the job so much my ambition was always to try and progress. This has always been my aim.
“I love working for Hays. It’s an independent and there is a real family vibe. You know the directors on a personal level and it’s a nice environment to work in.
“I know how I would like to be treated and because I started out as an apprentice I can interact on a good level with the whole team.”
Toni, 42, was delighted to take on her new role and believes Hays Travel North West is unique in what it can offer.
She said: “I’m really pleased. I’m very passionate about Hays Travel. I love the new job, it’s a totally different challenge to what I was doing before.
“I’ve got 13 existing shops and seven new shops which are due to open in the imminent future.
“It’s about going to the shops and driving the business, making sure the manager is doing the right things and carrying out shop visits to make sure our standards are being met.”
She added: “Shops are closing on the High Street but we’re opening in lots of different towns.
“There are people who will always book on the internet and do their own research but there are a lot of customers who want a face-to-face service.
“They want you to help them and to make recommendations. It’s not just bucket and spade holidays anymore people want cultural holidays and to see different things.
“We do a lot of multiple destination bookings. We are able to sort all the connecting flights and book it all together with full protection rather than separately.
“That’s not something you can do on your own so it gives peace of mind. If you book it all yourself and one part fails it all fails.
“I love working for an independent as you can book what’s right for the customer.”
Lindsey believes the wide-ranging choice that Hays Travel North West is able to offer its customers as well as the personal service its knowledgeable staff provide is key to the firm’s success.
She said: “Up to three years ago we had 12 shops, by the end of March next year we’ll be up to 40.
“We’ve really developed the Wirral and North Wales offer and we’re heading into the Manchester area so this is the next focal point.
“We sell every tour operator and we’re the only agent on the High Street to sell Jet2 packages, aside from the other independent stores.
“We are able to offer more variety. We’re very successful in providing cruises and long haul packages. People are more adventurous with their holiday destinations and are heading further afield.
“Our staff have experience in each field and can give recommendations to customers.
“People are coming back to the High Street. It’s all about giving them a service that they can’t get on the internet.”
Hays Travel North West is the main partner of the hugely successful Hays Travel based in Sunderland which has just announced a turnover of more than £1bn and is the UK’s largest independent travel agency.