More than 120 former Thomas Cook stores have reopened under the Hays Travel banner just days after John and Irene Hays took over the entire Cook retail network – with more to follow over the weekend, Hays has vowed.
Hays has so far reopened 123 of Cook’s 555 stores and taken on nearly 1,800 former Cook staff, as of 5.30pm on Friday (11 October), with around 100 opening on Friday alone.
Hays staff will be manning the agency’s dedicated recruitment helpline – 0800 215 5995 – over the weekend to help as many former Cook staff back into work as soon as possible.
Friday also saw the first Hays branding rolled out to an ex-Cook store when The Bridges Shopping Centre branch in Sunderland received new window hangings and internal posters.
The first booking for a Hays Travel holiday at a former Cook store, meanwhile, was made at the Debenhams Centre in South Shields on Thursday (10 October), the result, said Hays, of “a joint team effort between the new colleagues of both South Shields shops sharing expertise and technology”.
John and Irene Hays also made a cheery appearance on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Friday, thanking well-wishers for their support and for communities across the country getting behind their local Cook-turned-Hays teams.
“It’s incredible how much our fantastic teams have done in just three days,” said John Hays. “They’ll be working over the weekend too on recruitment and getting stores open. Irene and I and all of our now-extended Hays Travel family are really overwhelmed with the continuing support and goodwill messages we are receiving from everyone.
“We are delighted to have welcomed customers back into the stores, started rebranding and booked our first holidays already and that’s a tribute to our great people who have stopped at nothing to make this happen.”
Hays Travel was among a number of agency chains to make partial or full bids for the former Thomas Cook retail network. It is understood Midcounties Co-op and Barrhead Travel were keen to take on a significant number of Cook stores, along with various miniples.
Barrhead has since announced it will proceed to open another 100 stores across the UK, more than doubling the size of its network from a current 76. It follows the agency chain’s acquisition by US firm Travel Leaders Group last year.
Following the Monday deadline, fevered negotiations took place throughout much of Tuesday, concluding shortly before midnight with Hays’ acquisition of all 555 former Cook stores announced on Wednesday morning (9 October).
Tailor Made Travel chief executive Simon Morgan described the deal as a "real corker", while Miles Morgan, managing director of Miles Morgan Travel, hailed it as “great news” for thousands of retail travel agents.