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Little's prepares for big year ahead with brand overhaul

A GLASGOW-BASED chauffeur business has geared up for what it  anticipates will be a bumper year by creating a new brand identity, relaunching its website and creating a new online portal for clients.

NEW LOOK: Little's boss Heather Matthews is creating a fresh brand identity for the firm and said she was hopeful that the Ryder Cup, Homecoming and 2014 Games in Glasgow would provide a boost.
NEW LOOK: Little's boss Heather Matthews is creating a fresh brand identity for the firm and said she was hopeful that the Ryder Cup, Homecoming and 2014 Games in Glasgow would provide a boost.

Family-owned Little's, which owns its fleet of 40 vehicles, has invested an undisclosed sum in updating its image and technology.

It comes as demand for its services is expected to rise thanks to the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and the tourism sector's Year of Homecoming.

Managing director Heather Matthews will unveil the first phase of the investment when she presents the new portal at the Business Travel Show at Earls Court in London next week.

Ms Matthews, who succeeded her father at the helm of Little's in 2005, said: "We see 2014 as being a really hopeful year in terms of the things that are happening in Scotland with the Ryder Cup, Homecoming and Commonwealth Games. That's going to make a big difference for us.

"We are also, with the rebrand, really trying to boost our profile here and throughout the world to increase that share of the market as well. We feel in a really strong position at the moment."

Ms Matthews said the portal was the latest stage in the evolution of a bespoke reservation system it first established in 1996.

The latest iteration, which will be operational later this year, will allow clients to use mobile devices to view and alter reservations, track the location of their cars in real time and access invoices. It will also provide a financial management function and a store and recall option for personalised information.

Little's cars, which are all burgundy in colour and manufactured by Jaguar or Mercedes, will be equipped with 4G, allowing customers to access the portal as they travel.

Ms Matthews said many of Little's corporate clients use its service when they embarked on financial roadshows, ensuring fast and efficient travel for executives as they toured the country presenting results or visiting financial houses to attempt to raise capital.

Such clients would be able to upload their itinerary on the new system, she said.

Conferences in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh also provide a revenue stream, with many delegates bolting tours of Scotland on to their stays.

Ms Matthews said organising tours for corporate and leisure clients was an important part of the business, noting that its drivers effectively double as guides.

Asked about the perception of chauffeur cars as an expensive luxury, she said: "I think it comes to value - that is important to the way we sell our service.

"If a leisure client is already thinking they are going to stay at Gleneagles or The Balmoral, then they will see a chauffeur-driven car as something that is good value."

Ms Matthews said the recession had a major impact on the business, particularly in Scotland, but said clients in the corporate and financial spheres in London were "starting to spend again".

She noted the financial crisis had led the firm to focus more on widening its business overseas.

It works with affiliates in countries such as the US, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Turkey, with sales abroad now accounting for 40% of revenue.

Corporate centres such as London, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Philadelphia and Boston are among its most biggest markets.

Ms Matthews said: "We marketed our international side quite aggressively in 2012. We saw our international business grow by 150%."

She said it was vital that Little's heritage was reflected in its new corporate identity.

Its design is a graphic depiction of a tartan which she created to commemorate the firm's 40th anniversary in 2006. She added that Little's drivers were perhaps the only ones in the UK who still wore the traditional uniform of grey suits and chauffeur's hat.

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