The majority of former Thomas Cook agencies will reopen on Thursday (10 October) under new ownership, John Hays has said.
Hays Travel announced on Wednesday (9 October) it had purchased all 555 Cook shops from the liquidators for an undisclosed sum, despite considerable interest from rival chains.
Work had been progressing behind the scenes in recent weeks, with Hays recruiting Cook’s area managers in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Kent, Essex and East Anglia.
Owner John Hays said these managers had in turn brought with them their own staff. “That’s why we have got to well over 500.”
Shops will be taken over on existing rental agreements with a nine-month “licence to occupy”, which is extendable.
All landlords are guaranteed current rents until then. Hays estimates there are “probably 140” landlords to deal with.
Hays says it will reopen Cook stores "where possible", but has also stressed it will also look at which stores complement its existing retail network.
The independent agency chain has overtaken Tui’s 600 shop network to become the UK’s largest, with the 555 Cook branches added to Hays’ existing 190 shops.
Hays Travel took more than 400 calls to a recruitment hotline (0800 215 5995) “in two hours” on Wednesday morning, while its website was averaging more than 3,000 visits per minute.
“We want as many of the 2,500 employees in retail to contact us as soon as possible,” Hays added.