£17m buyout sees Icelolly.com switch cities to open new HQ

Holidaymakers increasingly shop online
Holidaymakers increasingly shop online
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HOLIDAY price comparison website Icelolly.com is relocating its Yorkshire headquarters following a £17m management buyout of the business.

The company is moving its head office from Wyke in Bradford to Leeds city centre as part of an expansion drive which will see it take the number of staff to over 100 and boost turnover by 10 per cent in 2014.

It has taken the first floor, 8,000 sq ft, of the recently refurbished Park Row House on Park Row on a 10-year lease. The firm’s 62 staff will move in on Monday.

The move, which doubles the size of the company’s current office space, comes six months after a £17m management buyout of the business led by chief executive Dave Clayton and backed by Palatine Private Equity.

Icelolly.com has an £11m turnover, which it forecast will grow to £12.5m in 2014.

In 2013, 26 million visitors used Icelolly.com to compare 40 million holiday deals, which it expects to grow to over 30 million visitors and over 100 million deals. The website also allows users to compare flights and hotels.

Mr Clayton said: “Our current offices are a former swimming baths and they don’t have much presence.

“Leeds is a better hub for us. For a marketing and IT business there is an awful lot of quality staff in Leeds. We needed bigger offices anyway so we decided to relocate.

“We are on three floors at the moment so moving to one large floor will make it much easier for departments to work together.”

Andy Lees, partner at Palatine and non-executive director at Icelolly.com, said: “As a central Northern hub, Leeds is the perfect location to support the management team through its next stage of growth.

“With the business looking to accelerate its recruitment drive over the next few months, we are very excited about what this city has to offer.”

The deal for Park House was advised by OBI Property. The fit-out and office furniture was supplied by Ben Johnson, based in York.

The move is a further blow for Bradford. Last year Yorkshire Building Society, which is headquartered in Bradford, decided to open an 800-strong office in Leeds and close three smaller offices in Bradford.

Icelolly.com plans to add and expand a number of services in 2014, including car hire and villa holidays as well as travel insurance, parking and transfers. Mr Clayton said: “We are a relatively small player but more and more people have heard of us and we do an awful lot on TV with celebrity endorsements. Our ambition is to be the preferred website for travel.”

He added: “We are primarily a package holiday search company but we want to bring in a number of other services. We want to be known as the place to go for the best possible price.”

The company plans to increase the number of staff to over 100 and has already started recruiting call centre staff and marketing positions as well as web developers.

Mr Clayton said “These are very exciting times for everyone associated with Icelolly.com and the new offices will provide the space and facilities to help us achieve our ambitious plans.

“The vibrant location, excellent transport links and university made Leeds the perfect head office location for Icelolly with a great pool of talent.”

He added: “We are doing a lot of work behind the scenes to improve the way the website functions. We have got the contacts for the best deals but we are working on the technology to deliver them quickly to the customer. We don’t just want to be the best value, we want to have the best booking experience.”

Icelolly has already appointed a number of directors and managers to the business since the MBO, including a new chief financial officer, chief technology officer and digital marketing manager.

It also recently started taking on placement students from Leeds University.

In 2013, the company spent £3.3m on marketing, which it plans to increase this year.

The website is primarily used by women between the ages of 20 and 34.

“But our target audience is anyone who goes on holiday,” Mr Clayton added.

Popular destinations for summer 2014 include Majorca, Spain and Greece.

“Portugal has seen a big increase in interest this year,” he added. “We are known for bucket and spade holidays. All inclusive deals are particularly popular in 2014 with people on budgets who want to know exactly what they will be spending.”

lizzie.murphy@ypn.co.uk