Head of Operations & Retail at Bunn Leisure
After spending eight years working for Bourne Leisure and three years with Bridge Leisure, Neil moved to Bunn Leisure in West Sussex in January 2016 to become Head of Operations and Retail. His responsibilities include oversight of all retail experience at the Bunn site; bars, catering, shops and the Oasis pool complex.
You’ve spent most of your career working in holiday parks, how have they changed?
Without a doubt it’s our visitors’ expectations – they have risen enormously. The difference in expectation when I started with Rank in the early 1990s to now almost can’t be compared. What visitors expect to see in their caravan; anything from double-glazing to central heating, plus the basic functionality of them has risen and so has their expectation of how their children will be entertained, both during the day and the evening.
What’s the most important aspect of your job?
It’s got to be the ability to understand the business from the customer view. I think it helps that I’ve spent a number of my holidays in the past either on holiday parks. If you’ve enjoyed this type of holiday it gives you invaluable experience to bring to the job.
Anything specific you’ve taken from your own experience at these places?
I remember being at Disney and noticing that the team there all had name badges which wasn’t particularly innovative but then they’d include the place they came from, such as ‘Jake from Denver, Colorado’. I introduced that at one of the parks I used to work on for Bourne Leisure. Little things like that can make a big difference – critical non-essentials, I like to call them!
What is the main focus of the retail side of holiday park work?
Ensuring good and consistent working practises and looking at everything we sell and how we sell it. I’m always looking into new ways and new products to retail – what do our customers really want to see in our shops, bars and restaurants – and how we can help our guests buy our products at the best possible price.
Is live entertainment still important?
Absolutely. I think we’re miles ahead on this - we spend more than £1.5 million a year on entertainment at Bunn Leisure and our guests and owners really appreciate it. They love the idea that they are getting world-class performers, such as Billy Ocean or Heather Small, as well as the activities we produce for teens and children.
It sounds as if children and young people are increasingly the key?
If they are it’s because we attract so many families and one of the reasons for that – and for UK holiday parks still being so popular - is because it’s a safe and secure environment for children. There’s a feeling here that you can allow your children to roam free and enjoy a wide range of activities and facilities. When I was a child you could go out and play in the street but parents are far less likely to let their children do that now so it’s great they can still do this in holiday parks.