The region’s fastest-growing independent travel agents have secured a £1.2m loan to protect the business from the significant impact of COVID-19.

Following support from Stuart Dutton, Head of High Growth at Sedulo, Polka Dot Travel has successfully obtained a £1.2m loan from Barclays under the CBILS loan scheme in what is an extremely difficult time for the industry.

Founded by Philippa Wilcox and Helen Johnson in 2013, the business employs nearly 100 people with stores throughout the North West, North Wales and West Midlands. Following a strong performance to the year, Polka Dot Travel was hit hard by the lockdown announcement in March, with the Aviation and Travel industry arriving at a stand-still. Travel restrictions resulted in cancellations of pre-existing holidays and social distancing prevented the footfall in their high-street stores during what would normally be a cash-generative peak season moving into the summer months.

With nearly 100 staff, Polka Dot were left with no choice but to furlough 75% of their workforce through the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, a process managed entirely by Sedulo. Despite receiving cash from the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme and deferring their rental payments, they were quickly approaching a bottleneck within the business and chose to apply for a loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) to improve their cash flow.

Stuart Dutton, Head of High Growth at Sedulo said,

“I have been working with Polka Dot Travel as a non-executive Finance Director for the last 18 months and it has been great to see the proactive development undertaken pursuing growth in that time. The travel sector has been massively impacted, but Helen, Philippa and Mark quickly responded to mitigate the consequences to ensure that customer service was maintained whilst enhancing their digital offering for ongoing growth. They will come out of this with confidence for the future.”

Managing Director, Mark Johnson, on the impact the pandemic has had and working with Sedulo, said,

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been the toughest and most difficult challenge that I have ever faced in business. However, the support we have received from Sedulo has made it far more manageable and has been invaluable. Stuart and the wider team have offered support daily, helping with finance and funding issues and keeping us up-to-date with all the Government schemes. They have taken care of everything from the Job Retention Scheme to our CBILS loan application. Sedulo has made this daunting period easier to handle and have kept me positive all the way through – Thank you.”