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Mid-week break bookings grow 30% at Verdant

AN acquisitive Scottish caravan park business is keen to accelerate its expansion drive after achieving a 30% increase in holiday bookings in January amid a boom in sales of mid-week breaks.

Verdant Leisure has been benefiting from the increasing popularity of Monday to Friday breaks among consumers who are watching their money but do not want to go without holidays.

"The balance has shifted and we are doing far more short breaks," said operations director Bev Dixon.

Noting that a four-night break could be had for around two-thirds of the price of a week's holiday, she added: "Mid week has really taken off."

Ms Dixon said Verdant had also been using cut-price promotions to help win business at a time when the uncertain economic outlook had been weighing on consumer sentiment.

The company struck a deal with Tesco under which shoppers can use vouchers acquired under the retail giant's Clubcard scheme towards the cost of holidays at Verdant's four parks.

Led by chief executive Graham Hodgson, Verdant achieved strong growth in turnover to more than £1 million last year. Holiday sales on the two parks it runs in East Lothian increased by at least two-thirds compared with the preceding year.

Ms Dixon noted investment in marketing the parks it has acquired had helped Verdant lure holidaymakers from as far afield as South Africa.

She said Verdant wanted to acquire suitable sites in central and southern Scotland and northern England.

The company plans to build an enlarged portfolio of parks that can be accessed relatively easily from major population centres in these areas.

"We are looking to acquire further parks in 2013 but we have to find the right ones," said Ms Dixon.

She said the company looked at sites every week but was not in negotiations about any potential deals.

Backed by the RJD Partners private equity business, Verdant bought sites at Pease Bay and Thurston Manor in East Lothian from the Dunham family in a multi-million-pound deal in 2010.

This was the first stage of an attempt by Ms Dixon and Mr Hodgson to repeat the success they enjoyed in what is a fragmented sector with South Lakeland Caravan Parks. The entrepreneurs sold South Lakeland for £125m in 2007, 18 months after leading a £95m management buyout of the business.

Ms Dixon said Verdant paused to consolidate in 2012 after acquiring sites in Ayrshire and Northumberland in July 2011 and January last year respectively.

Holiday bookings at the four parks increased by 30% in total in January on the same month last year.

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