Your stories: Andy Cunningham’s pop-up shop is beyond his ‘wildest expectations’

The Not Just Travel agent tells Samantha Mayling about breaking into travel during the pandemic and establishing himself in a Bristol shopping mall

Your stories: Andy Cunningham’s pop-up shop is beyond his ‘wildest expectations’

Pictured: Andy with Lisa Hanley

The Not Just Travel agent tells Samantha Mayling about breaking into travel during the pandemic and establishing himself in a Bristol shopping mall

Q. How did you set up with Not Just Travel?
I purchased my franchise in spring 2019. In previous careers, my focus was on exceptional customer service. Travel has always been a passion and I began daydreaming about it as a career, plus I wanted to be my own boss, so I jumped at the chance to make it a reality. Not Just Travel’s professionalism impressed me, as did the owners, Steve Witt and Paul Harrison.

Q. How did you cope during the pandemic?
Friends said I had to be insane opening a travel outlet during the pandemic, but I believed the economy would bounce back. Also, I wanted to be recognised as a travel shop in the mall, ready for when the lockdowns ended.

Q. Was your background in travel?
No, although I am well travelled, having lived and worked in Papua New Guinea (twice), South America, Central America and the Caribbean. I started in management with Foster Menswear in the 1970s, then worked for the Co-op, the British Shoe Corporation and Courts furnishers up until the noughties. I did an MBA at Exeter University and had various management roles.

Q. What was your first booking?
It was a Tenerife stag do, from an ex-work colleague referral. It took two weeks to quote for what would take me a couple of hours now. I was so elated about getting the booking that I took payment for the whole holiday rather than just the deposit. The same customer has booked his third holiday with me, so I must be doing something right.

Q. Have you taken any large bookings or arranged extensive or unusual itineraries?
I’ve booked a few £20k-plus US and Hawaii holidays, a £12k wedding with ceremony in Mauritius, some £10k-plus cruises including a South America cruise and a Mekong river cruise coupled with a land tour, and £17k-plus bespoke cultural tours.

Q. How are bookings at the moment?
I had the best peaks period and surpassed my expectations. During January and February, it was a struggle to keep up with enquiries – my shop was 61% up year on year for January to March. The average booking value is around £3,400 and the most popular destinations are Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, the US, Canada, Maldives, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Customers are not just booking a holiday, but booking their wish-list destinations.

The pandemic has heightened awareness of doing things now and I’ve noticed a renewed zest for experiences. I specialise in cruises – sales for which are up 70% on 2022 – specialist tours, ski, Scandinavia and family package holidays. Over the past 16 months, we’ve built a very loyal customer base – they are booking their fourth and fifth holidays with me.

I do remarkably little marketing. This year I have advertised in four local magazines and I post on Facebook. We also sponsor a talented footballer called Lily Simmons who plays for Cardiff City Youth Team. I get around 97% of customers via my shop and customer referrals.

Q. What are your own travel plans?
I have just returned from Cyprus. This year I have a Caribbean holiday, a Mediterranean cruise and a Barcelona holiday booked. I can’t wait; I love to travel.

Q. How does Not Just Travel help?
NJT is extremely supportive. I have communication channels to top management. I work with my personal liaison contact Dave Pope [head of sales and training] and we have weekly meetings. For the franchise arrangement to be cost-effective, you must sell holidays. If you have a willingness to listen, learn and be guided, you will grow and prosper. The whole network is a font of knowledge. I have learnt so much about the business by talking with my peers – everyone is extremely nurturing and willing to offer advice.

How do you describe your pop-up shop?


It’s been open for 14 months in Willow Brook Shopping Centre and has worked beyond my wildest expectations. Team member Stuart Briffett is a
Partner in Travel [PIT – Not Just Travel’s referral scheme] and promotes the shop within the local Business Network International group. PITs are valuable parts of my business and the NJT team. A PIT can be an individual, organisation or charity that’s paid a commission for holidays booked via recommending the NJT travel consultant to friends and family.

While Stuart opts to receive commission payments, other personal PITs accumulate commission to pay for holidays or to support charities, such
as feeding homeless people. I employ two amazing part-timers: Lisa Hanley, our Disney and short-haul holidays expert, and Ray Jubber, our golf, villas and short-haul expert.

I also work with Victoria Archer in Norwich, Rachel Lowe in Bristol and Fiona Fazell in Birmingham as PITs. I work six days a week in the shop, and from home when I’m not there. It’s full-on but I love it. I intend to train my team so I can step back a bit, then I want to launch a second pop-up shop.