Retailers hope for post-election upturn in sales after June slowdown

The trade has blamed the build‑up to the general election for distracting customers from booking holidays, but remains hopeful of a lates boom from next week.

Agents said political uncertainty around the result of this week’s election, and in particular fears of tax rises under a new government, had caused hesitancy in the lates market.

Across the trade, agents noted slower-than-expected trading for June, but stressed sales were still up or level with the same month last year. It follows recent bullish sales reports despite the election and Uefa European Football Championships.

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The “softer” sales in June – traditionally a strong lates month – were triggered as soon as the government announced the date of its snap election, according to some.

Many agents also pointed to current advertising by major operators as evidence of excess capacity.

Spear Travels managing director Peter Cookson said: “The general election has had far more of an impact as it was announced so late, rather than the Euros which everyone had planned for anyway.”

He described June as “tough” with the “odd positive spike”. The miniple ended the month 4% ahead of last June but 15% down on a “realistic” target.

Large operators still offering free child places in June was “unheard of”, he said, adding: “Offers by the likes of Tui, easyJet holidays and Jet2 show how much availability is still left. Lates are slow but I think will pick up really close to departure, but so much depends on the election results.”

Richard Slater, managing director of Henbury Travel, referenced Rishi Sunak’s claim that Labour would raise taxes by £2,000 as playing on consumers’ minds.

“People are waiting to see what happens and how much tax goes up,” he said, claiming there was “desperation” at some larger operators.

Fred Olsen Travel retail director Paul Hardwick predicted a “challenging week” with so much focus on the election, but added: “Hopefully after this week we will see the resulting boom in bookings.”

The Travel Shop director Simon Oram also expected bookings to “stay slow until next week”. He said: “The general election always does hit business whenever it’s called, and the Euros distracts people too.”

Inspire Group managing director Lisa Henning reported a mixed picture, with June sales up overall. She noted: “June was quieter across our retail operation, but our homeworkers reported a buoyant month.”

The comments follow a poll of 2,000 consumers in June by Travel Counsellors that suggested almost a third of Brits changed their holiday plans due to the election while 15% planned trips around the Euros and Olympic Games.

But Advantage Travel Partnership chief commercial officer Kelly Cookes maintained there was “still an appetite for late bookings”, with 57% of last week’s bookings for summer.

“It is the lower-end family market that continues to be slow. The late bookings that are coming in are holding up well in terms of revenue,” she said, adding price and weather were more likely to hit sales.

Heidi Evans, director at Oasis Travel, agreed: “Customers have not mentioned the election.”

Barrhead Travel also said the election and Euros had had “minimal impact”, but inconsistent weather was boosting “spontaneous” bookings.

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