Abi Wright, Co-founder and Director of Spabreaks.com, emphasises that having a clear direction for her company has been fundamental to its ongoing success. Determined from the outset that the business model of Spabreaks.com would be strengthened by uniquely excellent customer service, she has stayed true to this vision, with Spabreaks.com listed at number two on the Fast Track 100 just three years after its 2008 launch.
Acting as an intermediary between consumers, hotels and spas across the UK, the idea for the website came out of Wright’s previous career in PR. “I saw the boom of the spa industry and that there was a gap in the market for an agency which could offer customers a comprehensive, searchable online directory of spas.
“After I met my now business partners Ross Marshall and Andrew Harding in 2007, everything took off from there. My strategy was to set the business apart from the voucher mob models, as I feel this removes the meaningful aspect of spa – investing in your health and wellbeing and taking time out. I wanted to work with spas all over the country as a third marketing arm, allowing consumers to make an informed choice, and be able to provide advice, promoting healthy thinking and wellbeing.”
Beginning with two placement students and hosting 26 hotels and spas, Spabreaks.com has grown to a staff of 43, representing the packages of 560-plus spas and counting. Wright adds: “We receive 90,000 unique hits to the site each week and have a database of 320,000 people. We can reach more people, more quickly, and more efficiently than the hotels themselves. There’s no cost to be on the site, with our profit coming from the commission on the packages we sell.”
There are a number of strong competitors in the online travel agency marketplace, but Wright has kept her strategy focused on adding value through the Spabreaks.com service, seeing the customer experience through from booking to journey home. “We are also very proud of our industry firsts – for instance our Recovery Retreats, aimed at people with cancer. Last year we also launched the Spa for All initiative, encouraging people with disabilities back into spas.
“From the research I have conducted, when you go through a period of trauma, such as a cancer diagnosis, all you want to do is feel ‘normal’, even if just for a couple of hours. If we can enable people to put on a fluffy white robe like everyone else in the spa, sit with friends or family and relax, then this is more than beneficial.”
The growth of the business has surpassed the levels Wright anticipated and it has at times been difficult to keep up with the rate of expansion. “We receive between 700 and 1,500 calls a day, seven days a week and it is growing daily,” she explains. “We’ve simply had to react to demand, as it was impossible to predict. We recruit wisely, invest in a happy team and I feel we are creating something very exciting. We’re up about 36% year on year and I’m looking to recruit another five staff by Christmas.
“We want to hit the £20 million turnover stage within the next three years and are now looking at expanding the overseas element of our business, beginning in Europe, the Far East and the Middle East to start with. We have a lot of interest from Dubai in working with us.”
Five business lessons
- Listen to customers – they are key to your success and can provide advice, ideas and direction
- Surround yourself with likeminded people who can do the job better than you can
- Never underestimate the value of business relationships – you will get further quicker if you treat people well
- Stamp out negativity the minute it starts – it spreads quickly and is extremely detrimental to your business
- Stay true to who you are and what you believe – don’t make decisions which work against your vision, even if in the short-term it might see bigger returns
For more information about Spabreaks.com visit: www.spabreaks.com
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