Cruise company drops anchor at new Chorley premises

Count Cllr Aidy Riggott, Matt Robinson and James Cole

Lancashire’s Panache Cruises is celebrating a move to new premises at Strawberry Fields Digital Hub, despite having to navigate some extremely challenging waters during the pandemic.

The new offices, in Chorley, will accommodate Panache Cruises’ current team of 15, with room for further expansion.

The move has been supported by a significant level of funding from Rosebud – a product managed by GC Business Finance on behalf of Lancashire County Council – which aims to support the growth of Lancashire businesses and the local economy by offering business loans ranging from £10,000 to £300,000.

James Cole, Panache Cruises’ founder and managing director, said: “We are extremely grateful for the support of both Lancashire County Council and the Rosebud fund. The funding will allow us to continue to develop our business in line with our ambitious growth plans, as we move on from the challenges of the pandemic.”

Rosebud’s fund manager, Matt Robinson, said: “The success that Panache has seen in its first year of trading, despite the economic conditions, is remarkable but not a surprise. The business is led by a highly impressive and experienced management team with a track record of successfully building companies in this sector previously.”

He added: “We are pleased to support another growing Lancashire-based business. The opening of the new Chorley office will hopefully be another catalyst for the business as international travel opens up.”

County Cllr Aidy Riggott, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for economic development and growth, said: “It’s always great to hear when funding from Rosebud has allowed a company to build on its obvious strengths and go to the next level.

“In this case, it’s particularly gratifying to see a Lancashire company, working in a sector which has been so badly impacted by the pandemic, continue to trade successfully and strengthen their investment in Chorley.”

James Cole is a long time veteran of the cruise industry having worked in the sector for more than 20 years. During his career he has set up and grown two £100m retail cruise businesses and launched his latest venture, Panache Cruises, in the midst of the pandemic last year, having developed the business plan during the first period of lockdown.

Panache Cruises’ ambition is to become the UK’s largest retailer of luxury cruises in the UK by 2027. Despite the significant impact of COVID-19 on the cruise industry, Cole says that the long term growth prospects of the industry remain strong.

He says that, against the backdrop of COVID 19, Panache Cruises exceeded its revenue projections for its first year, with more than 300 cruises booked, with sales of £3m.

He added: “Launching Panache Cruises was never about the short term, it was all about the long term growth opportunity. We know that cruise, especially the luxury sector, is due to grow significantly over the next five to 10 years and our strategy is to grow with it.

“Whilst the pandemic has, of course, brought its challenges, it has also given us the opportunity to establish what is now a settled and experienced team, build strong connections with our cruise line partners and develop loyal relationships with customers who are really enjoying our content and beginning to trust us as their preferred cruise partner.

“Over 30 of our customers have booked more than one cruise with us, and we achieved 99% five-star reviews on Trustpilot. I believe we’re in great shape as Brits start cruising internationally once again.”

Looking ahead Cole says the market for cruise is looking strong for 2022 and 2023 and that many of his customers are looking to spend more and travel further for their next holiday.

The business also reported its strongest month for sales in August.

He said: “Having missed out on cruising for the last 18 months, British cruisers are keen to get back on board and we are currently seeing a high level of interest for 2022 and 2023 cruises, with prices starting to rise and availability beginning to dwindle.”

Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...