Thomson and First Choice to merge on high street

TUI UK is to rebrand all its travel agent stores ‘Thomson … featuring First Choice’ and axe standalone First Choice outlets.

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The initiative, which will cost the travel company £8m in frontage and shop overhaul, is designed “to maximise the exposure and efficiency of both brands on the UK high street”.

Thomson and First Choice merged in 2007 and TUI UK currently has 505 Thomson stores and 215 First Choice Stores.

Going forward, the two brands will offer distinctive holiday propositions: Thomson offers “uniquely designed holidays” and First Choice will offer all-inclusive holidays only from next year. The rebranding creates a “one stop shop” offering the full range of holidays, says the company. It will also triple the retail exposure of the First Choice brand.

The changes will begin in the Exeter region and the project is spearheaded by retail director Kathryn Ward and distribution director Nick Longman, working closely on the branding with TUI UK head of marketing Jeremy Ellis.

Ellis says: “Now we have two distinct propositions for Thomson and First Choice, we want to maximise the exposure and efficiency of both brands on the UK high street.

He adds that trials had already run with the new branding and “these have been very successful”.

The refurbishment programme is expected to be finished by October 2013.

Thomson recently launched a new £5m branding campaign with a 90 second television spot focusing on the importance of quality time with family.

The company has also just restructured its management and new deputy chief executive Johan Lundgren of TUI Travel has launched a review of its mainstream holidays division.

Rival Thomas Cook recently received the green light to launch a joint venture with the Co-operative Group’s travel division to create the largest high street chain with 1,240 outlets. Thomas Cook is also holding a strategy review of its business.

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