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Last Update: Friday October 30, 2020

Key Idea: Stick with Core Customers

Host Hattie Bryant says that for Joan and Bill, some things have never changed and some things have never stayed the same. What hasn't changed is their focus on the independent international traveler.

Key Question:

A: 

Keep doing what you do best and what your customers expect you to do.

A commitment to the independent international traveler has dictated the product mix, the location and the types of employees they hire at Le Travel Store.  It's even dictated the style of the business. When you visit their business, you feel it's independent, it's international, and it's all about travel. What has changed is the way they take care of these customers. They started by selling plane tickets. They added backpacks, and then a full-blown travel agency and a full line of travel products. They've been in three locations: a funky retail area, an upscale high-concept mall and now an historic building. Joan and Bill know what to change and what not to change.

Q:  Who is the independent international traveler?

A: 
A person who will never take a group tour. This is the person who buys books and maps and dreams about adventure and who is willing to face many obstacles on a trip. They may not know for sure where they will sleep every night before they get on the airplane. On their own they will learn how to handle currency exchange, how to use public transportation and how to ask for help. This is not the person who wants luxury and who expects to be pampered.

Bill said when they first opened in Pacific Beach, their typical customer was about 24 years old with an old Volkswagen van. Today that same person is between 50 and 55 years old and is probably driving a Volvo. This older independent international traveler probably has more money than they had in 1977 but they still want the freedom to plan a trip and the adventure of making their own way in a strange place.

Q:  Is the independent international traveler a market niche?

A: 
Yes. A niche is a narrowly defined group of potential customers, and there are many niches in the travel business. The business traveler is a completely different niche than is the person traveling for pleasure. Then there are families with young children and families with teenagers and senior citizens that are afraid to travel without a doctor. Yes, these are all unique customer types who are being served by large and small businesses.

There is a great deal of material about market niches on our site. Andy Murstein, Bill Tobin, and so many others have said, "There are riches in niches."

Q:  Why do Joan and Bill do so well serving the independent international traveler?

A:
  Because they are members of this niche. To sell and service customers requires a great depth of understanding that can only be acquired from personal experience. The expression in investing is, "You have to eat your own cooking." This simply means, you should be your own best customer. Joan and Bill travel regularly and they don't take tours. They always plan their own trips the same way they teach their customers to plan.

Think about it

Is the market you go after too big? Too small? Who exactly is your target customer? Who is your competition and how do they go after this target?

Clip from: Le Travel Store in the Gaslamp Quarter

San Diego:  Joan and Bill Keller, founders of Le Travel Store,  have traveled so much,  you ask, "Where haven't you been?"  One answer was "The Antarctica." But, they got close -- Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego - Patagonia down on the tip of Argentina, the most southern city on earth and on a clear day ... of course, Joan and Bill Keller have the Antarctica on their list, but compared to most people, their list is rather short.

Become an independent traveler, but do it with panache. Take some of your customers, your investors, CPA and banker, and of course, your family with you. Source the world. 

Also, this team is well-grounded in their community. They lead the "return to authenticity" movement that champions Main Street. The National Trust for Historic Preservation led us to them and this historic Gaslamp Quarter!

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Le Travel Store (BK)

Bill Keller, Founder

745 Fourth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
6195440005

Visit our web site: http://www.letravelstore.com

Office: 6195440005

Business Classification:
Travel

Year Founded: 1975

Stick with Core Customers

BILL: We sit and talk with people often about this kind of store, and the first thing we tell people is, figure out if you're really serious about this. Don't go into business unless you're really serious about it. And then I often advise people that our success is largely based on really connecting with that particular customer, that on-your-own overseas international traveler. And I think it's real important to be really good at something, because you're competing with a lot of other people.

In our case, we've got some very good camping and backpacking stores that sell the same products we sell. We've got some excellent bookstores, we have luggage stores, department stores, so we're in competition with people. And our competitive edge is really zeroing in on that on your own overseas traveler, and providing something that they just cannot get elsewhere.

HATTIE: (In the Studio) For Bill and Joan, some things have never changed, and some things have never stayed the same. What hasn't changed is their focus on the independent international traveler. Yes, they'll help a customer who wants to go anywhere and in any way, but their focus is that independent traveler. This has dictated their product mix, their location, the types of employees they hire, and even the style of the business. When you go in the business, you feel it's independent, it's international, and it's travel. What has changed is the way they take care of these customers.

They started by selling plane tickets. They added backpacks, then a full-blown travel agency, and a full line of travel products. They've been in three locations, a funky retail area, an upscale high-concept mall, and now a historic building. What Bill and Joan have done is they know how to change and what to change, and what not to change. And what hasn't changed is who their customer is, the independent international traveler. Even if you can't come to San Diego, if you're the type of person who wants to plan your own trip, you can visit Bill and Joan at LeTravelStore.com.
 
 

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