A view from Staff

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Is TUI making a mistake by getting rid of its late-offer window displays?

The tour operator is trialling an approach where it will replace posters for last-minute deals with brand-building 'aspirational' images in the windows of its Thomson and First Choice stores.

NO: John Rowley, Group chief executive, Tangible

Tough market conditions often cause marketers to cling to the tried-and-tested techniques, and nowhere are margins tighter and sales more sought-after than the holiday sector.

Yet, as has often been said, the definition of insanity is to repeat an action and expect a different outcome. When the going gets tough, the tough adapt.

The sales effect of late-offer windows has been falling as online search has become the dominant means of finding late deals. However, it is not just their reduced efficacy that must be considered - it's the negative effect.

For each shopper who spontaneously enters a branch to enquire about a holiday deal, how many others have had the negative preconceptions of First Choice and Thomson confirmed by an archaic arrangement of offer cards that looks one step up from the postcards in a newsagent's window?

Consumers are more likely to respond to an image of their dream holiday and the promise of friendly service, particularly if they have already checked the prices on the internet.

NO: Len Louis, Chief executive, ClassicBritishHotels.com

Late-offer window displays generally attract impulsive holidaymakers and bargain-hunters. The motivation is a desire to get away almost anywhere at a snip. The brand often plays a secondary role and loyalty is virtually non-existent in this commodity quagmire.

Brand positioning and differentiation is key in this highly competitive market. What better way to achieve this than placing aspirational imagery in the shop windows? Holidays are about selling dreams and lifestyles that consumers associate with specific brands and to which they will aspire.

If one is looking for immediacy on last-minute deals, there is nothing to compare with the web. Many customers do their holiday research online, then some will call to speak to an agent for further advice and reassurance on their choices before booking. A web address and call to action, such as 'coffee and late deals inside', somewhere on the window will suffice. Ultimately, the skill of the agents in the shop to convert enquirers to bookers and up-sell makes the difference on revenue income.

YES: Nick Gray, Managing director, Live & Breathe

The retail experience should reflect the brand, so what TUI is trying to achieve - enhancing the customer experience and updating the Thomson and First Choice brands - makes total sense.

However, let's not get rid of the positive aspects of this approach. Advertising deals in windows still serves a purpose - hooking people who are considering going on holiday and getting them across the threshold. There's a way to do it that can balance value and customer experience while representing what the brand is about.

For example, Thomson or First Choice could pick their top three deals of the week and present them in something as simple as beautifully crafted signage or holding devices that echo brand values and still allow customers to see into the shop. TUI is looking to cover all bases: value in terms of price and customer experience as well as brand look and feel.

It can be done. Last-minute deals are no bad thing. It's how TUI frames them that matters.

YES: Paul Houlding, Chief executive, Isobel

The phrase 'baby out with the bathwater' springs to mind. Travel agents sell holidays and, as part of that service, there are always late offers and deals to be had. They form an invaluable part of any marketing programme and are nothing to be ashamed of. The question is simply whether these deals should be in the shop window, and I give them the benefit of the doubt.

Specific deals can attract the many last-minute deal-seeking holidaymakers while conveying a sense of urgency, excitement and 'come in and explore'.

The real issue is not whether, but how they should be used.

Currently, they are an unattractive mess, and there seems little rhyme or reason as to how they are presented.

Yet, with some thought, they could be used to help reinforce and build the respective brand positionings, giving the best of both worlds. Don't jettison late-offer displays - embrace them.

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