A warm welcome
Shearings Hotels is part of Shearings Holidays, one of the UK’s leading holiday companies specialising in vacations for the mature customer.
In 2009, the division took the decision to establish two new brands, Coast & Country Hotels and Bay Hotels, in order to make it easier for its customers to choose the right location for their break.
Vince Flower, managing director of Shearings Hotels, explains more about why this decision was taken: “We commenced a strategic review process in 2008 and one of the first questions that we had to answer was: which sector do we operate in? Initial selling price comparisons had suggested that we were more akin to the budget hotel sector, but our product offering is very different from that provided by the budget hotel chains.
“After many hours spent reviewing all hotel sectors and their markets and testing the conclusions against what our customers and staff thought, we came to the view that we are a chain of UK based leisure hotels.”
The strategic review process gave Shearings Hotels valuable insight into how it is perceived in the marketplace and highlighted a number of important development opportunities for the business.
Vince adds: “The comprehensive customer research we undertook confirmed the fact that customers recognise that we have two distinct types of hotel experience; the traditional resort hotels we are famous for, and landmark properties like The Portpatrick and Lansdown Grove. The research showed that different groups of customer are attracted to our different hotel offers, but it also revealed that many of our customers choose between our different hotel offers depending on the occasion.
“For me one of the most enlightening moments was the fact that our customers want to know more about the differences between the hotels and have asked us to provide greater clarity in our marketing between the hotels and the style of experience they should expect. As a result, the Shearings ‘resort’ hotels are being rebranded as Bay Hotels, while ‘Coast & Country’ was launched in 2009 as the Hotels division’s premium brand with 13 hotels.”
He continues by highlighting more differences between two new brands, but notes an important point first: “We have introduced the name Bay Hotels to group the hotels together, as we have done with Coast & Country, to help customers identify other similar hotels that they might like to visit. Nothing else has changed except the name. We are still Shearings and the hotels will keep their individual names and identity.” He added: “Bay Hotels is the new name for everything customers know and love about our resort hotels – the friendly staff, the people they meet and the good times they enjoy. Bay Hotels deliver the famous Shearings resort hotel experience – the best that Britain has to offer, great locations, great service and great entertainment.” Work on the rebranding of the Bay Hotels has now commenced and will be finished by the end of August.
“Coast & Country hotels are defined by their warm hospitality and stunning locations. The individual properties often enjoy imposing landmark positions in areas of natural beauty and historic interest, offering magnificent views and a truly rewarding stay,” says Vince.
Now that all the Coast & Country hotels have now been rebranded, Vince was quick to point out an additional enhancement to customers’ experience: “We are pleased to have recently renewed our contract with Douwe Egberts to supply the entire coffee solution to Bay and Coast & Country Hotels for the next four years. The Cafitesse filtered coffee system is the perfect solution for our hotels as it offers a range of consistent quality black coffee as well as the ability to serve great tasting speciality coffees. The Bean to Cup option allows many of the hotels to serve pure, fresh and delicious coffee to our customers. All these can be prepared with ease and speed, minimal labour time and absolutely no waste.
“We believe that working in partnership with Douwe Egberts, we are able to offer great tasting coffee, using professional equipment, quality ingredients and the knowledge that the service support is always reliable and first class.”
Vince continues with details about the overall success of Shearings Hotels in 2009: “We provided 1.96 million bednights accommodation to our guests, which was 0.8 per cent greater than that recorded in 2008. The total income of £70.7 million was eight per cent higher than that reported in 2008. Occupancy of available rooms in 2009 was a healthy 83 per cent and the average income per bednight was eight per cent higher than in 2008 as a result of careful yield management and the various property improvements carried out during the past 18 months.” After taking an appropriate share of Group headquarters cost, the 2009 adjusted profit of Shearings Hotels division was £3.4 million, an improvement of 13 per cent over the 2008 level.
In addition to the normal cyclical capital improvements of £3.1 million in the winter of 2008 to 2009, the Shearings Group also undertook £10 million in improvement projects. These projects were financed by Moorfield Group, the hotel estate landlord, in return for increases in the rent. Seven hotels were improved to establish them into the newly created Coast & Country brand and 194 bedrooms across the estate were improved to the new Premier and Superior standards; this was done to raise their quality and earning potential.
Despite last year’s success and the complicated rebranding exercise that is still underway, Vince notes that the business is still looking for growth: “When it comes to acquisitions, we are currently looking at a number of potential new Coast & Country and Bay hotels to add to the portfolio. We are planning to add up to ten hotels over the next three years.”
He concludes with his future vision for the company: “We want to be the UK’s leading leisure hotel operator, offering the complete range of hotel choices for the leisure customer.”