Hays Travel is to open a branch in St Helens at the start of July and has revealed plans for a further five shops in the region by the end of the year.
The new shop, which will create six new jobs, will open in the Church Square shopping centre after a £100,000 refit.
The opening forms part of a major expansion by the travel agency chain, which already has 29 branches across the North West and Wales.
The St Helens shop, the 30th store in the region, and the five branches yet to open, will create around 60 new jobs in total. Including St Helens, Hays Travel will have 167 shops in the UK.
Don Bircham, Hays Travel North West managing director, said: “We have had our eye out for a suitable unit in St Helens for some time and we are delighted to have found it at Church Square which offers us a great central location in what is a terrific shopping area and a bustling community.
“We will now be working hard to transform the new unit with a £100,000 modern, high-spec makeover which we have across all of our stores so our customers feel welcomed and comfortable when they come to book their holidays with us.”
The company’s turnover passed the one billion mark for the 12 months to the end of April 2018, rising from £847.8 million for the previous 12 months to £1.006 billion, an increase of 18%.
The company said it was spending £1 million on staff bonuses and on celebrations to thank customers and suppliers as a result of the achievement.
Of the staff bonuses, Managing Director John Hays said: “We have lots of staff who have worked for us for 30 years and this is a special one off payment. I am proud we are the UK’s largest independent travel agent, which we have been for a while. We want to keep growing on all fronts and we want to keep our foot on the accelerator.”
Hays saw its biggest sales growth in its homeworking business with turnover up by 44% for the 12 months, followed by 28% growth in sales of its inhouse tour operation, while retail sales were up 23%, Independence Group members’ sales up 20% and foreign exchanges sales up 19%.
The number of Hays homeworkers has increased from 165 to 227 in the last year, and 300 are targeted by the end of October.
Hays said the hike in sales came as a result not just of taking on more homeworkers but because the company was working more closely with its homeworkers.
Hays said: “I am very pleased with how we are trading generally, especially our homeworkers who have been with us for many years.
“We have been working with them more closely and helping them to engage with clients and use the market tools available; this has got much more effective in the last few months.”
He added: “Homeworking has shown the biggest growth but it’s not the biggest part of our business. I feel we have not been punching our weight in regards to homeworking but in the last year that has changed dramatically.”
The company’s shop network now stands at 166, with 20 shops opened in the last year with mature shops seeing double-digit growth in the last year. “We are delighted with our performance, the brand is getting stronger and I think you can sense it’s a happy place to work,” added Hays.
The company will continue to look at opportunities for new shops, with plans to open a further 20 in the next 12 months. Several are currently in the pipeline, and Hays has not ruled out opening clusters of shops in areas where it currently has no presence.
Main photo – Hays Travel Managing Director, john Hays