Hays Travel has vowed to make no ex-Thomas Cook staff redundant, even if it eventually shuts or disposes of some of the 555 former Cook stores it acquired earlier this month.
The assurances from Irene Hays come as she revealed to TTG how Hays Travel had more than a third of Cook’s retail network up and running again just seven days after the acquisition – and plans to reopen in excess of another 40 stores this week.
As of 5pm on Wednesday (16 October), 207 of the 555 former Cook stores taken over on 9 October by Hays Travel were back in business. The firm has also offered more than 2,000 ex-Cook staff roles. “We always need staff,” she said.
Hays reiterated it remained Hays Travel’s intention to get all 555 former Cook stores trading again. She said Hays Travel’s initial nine-month “licence to occupy” the former Cook stores would allow the independent to assess how they trade under its model.
“Some are high-performing and some are loss-making,” she said. “We have 49 duplicates with existing Hays stores, but we’ve taken the executive decision to proceed with all 555.”
A number of Hays Travel’s high street rivals, including Midcounties Co-operative and Barrhead Travel, expressed an interest in Cook’s retail network before KPMG eventually awarded Hays all of the branches.
Barrhead has since announced plans to open another 100 stores. Hays though downplayed suggestions Hays Travel might offload some former Cook stores to rivals in the short-term. “We have no intention of doing that,” she said.
Hays confirmed KPMG had dealt with instances of its rivals directly approaching the landlords of some former Cook stores. “We’ve had one or two things like that,” she said, adding KPMG was “challenging” any such approaches.
Hays told TTG that while Hays Travel was engaged in “ongoing conversations” with former Cook staff “at many different levels”, its head office team had her and husband John’s full confidence.
“The pace at which head office is managing this process is quite simply astonishing,” she said.
Hays added Hays Travel’s “traditional independent model” meant that now the former Cook stores were no longer bound by directional selling, there were mutual opportunities for Hays and any tour operator partners stepping into the “void” left by Cook’s failed tour operation.
“If other operators like Jet2 make up the void left by Cook at different airports across the country, it will be a fantastic opportunity for our businesses,” she said.