The history of the brands that constitute SLG began in 1903 with the establishment of a company called Smiths Happiways, originally a haulage company that started operating coach holidays in 1914.
This company operated the first tours from the UK to Europe in 1938, continuing until the outbreak of World War II and then being the first company to resume tours following the end of the war in 1946 with a trip to Switzerland. One of the earliest European tour operators, they carried 6000 passengers in 1947, 10% of those were to the continent.
The company was bought by Associated Leisure in 1982 and this company purchased Shearings, which gives the current brand its name in 1984.
Shearings had been established by Herbert Shearing in 1919 in Oldham and offered express coach services between Manchester and London.
Associated Leisure was subsequently bought Pleasurama after which the company’s coaches were rebranded and formally merged as Smiths Shearings.
National Holidays was formed in 1976 by the state owned National Bus Company to launch a number of UK holiday services under the company’s banner. When bus companies were deregulated and privatised in 1986, National Holidays was sold to Pleasurama to become Shearings National.
Pleasurama was purchased by Mecca Leisure Group in 1989 which merged Shearings National with Smiths Shearings, renaming the brand back to its original name of Shearings.
Wallace Arnold, which was founded in 1912 in Leeds, had been one of the UK’s largest coach holiday companies throughout its history. It was purchased by venture capital Company 3i in 1997 and this company purchased a controlling stake in Shearings in 2005, merging the company with Wallace Arnold under the brand name WA Shearings before changing the name again to Shearings Holidays.
In April 2016 the business was purchased by Lone Star Funds and Shearings Leisure Group was established to encompass the six brands under one business. Later that month SLG purchased UKBreakaways.com which had been founded in 1998 and operates from Chesterfield.
In June 2018, the group was renamed Specialist Leisure Group to portray the breadth and depth of its diverse collection of leading leisure and travel brands.