My new life makes me my own perfect customer.
Sandbanks residents were treated to the unusual sight last September of a middle aged bald man cartwheeling along the seafront. I have two boys one of which has settled into a good job post graduation and has properly moved out, the other received an excellent degree from a top university. Now I am in trouble for ever having any doubts but given that Tolson junior is very much a version of me I have to confess that I was steeling myself for a repeat of my own inadequate results and maybe a repeat year of pain and lack of study.
I wrote in the past that the euphoria would wear off but it barely has, every day I get up and wander around the house still feeling the incredible sense of freedom from having to prise adolescent bodies out of bed and off to school.
Now I appreciate that I’m kidding myself as the current situation means he is back at home job seeking, and I’m under no illusion that the spending is over but it still feels like a new stage in our lives.
What has dawned on me is that I am now a member of one of my own most sought after customer groups – sure the families arriving for the school holidays spend the most but the battle for a good year’s rental figures is won and lost in the shoulder periods. Filling up May, June, September and October at the best price is what makes the difference between a mediocre year and a great one and so it’s this market that we really need to concentrate on.
Whilst there are of course parties of ladies who lunch and blokes on kite surfing trips in general this is a couples market and broadly speaking we can divide this group into 3 categories, pre children, with babies and toddlers and kids left home.
The baby and toddler crew are perhaps the most straightforward to think about. Unfortunately some things that they look for you can’t control – lift in the block, walk to beach, etc, but you can make them feel as welcome as possible by supplying good quality cot, highchair and stairgates, making gardens safe and by making it clear that they are welcome. Doesn’t hurt to highlight the nearest ice cream shop and family friendly place to eat and a box of toys and plenty of dvds will provide lots of fun for very little cost.
With pre children couples you are competing against a hotel room as well as other properties and this can make an apartment look expensive for a weekend. One of the key reasons a couple may choose self catering is that they have a dog. There are lots smaller of properties that have been renovated to a very high standard but by definition many won’t take a dog. We see really high occupancy in small dog friendly places so do consider this if you have the opportunity – half a dozen extra bookings will pay for a lot of cleaning!
Finally we come to my own cohort of middle aged people with kids grown up or at least at uni or can be left behind. We like our space and will often look at larger properties for our own holidays and there’s fewer kids being taken out of school nowadays so we represent a good opportunity to sell some weeks in 3 or 4 bedroom places out of term time. Whilst I don’t have to worry about how good a hair dryer is supplied this group of customers will have a good standard of things in their own home and won’t want to compromise on holiday. Also lots of dog owners in this group as they fill the void left by the departed offspring.
In all of these cases the guest will often have plenty of choice as there will be availability everywhere so as usual you have to think hard about giving a reason to choose you. Price is always the biggest factor but make sure you have the fastest internet you can, get a decent sized TV and chuck out your chintz!
Oh and by the way I am very much looking forward to the void in my life so I am not getting a dog!
Simon Tolson owns Rumsey of Sandbanks, a holiday letting agency. Contact Simon on 01202 707357.