Kuoni will wait until “the time is right” and trading picks up before reopening its high street stores.
Derek Jones, chief executive of Kuoni’s parent company Der Touristik UK, said the operator still “totally believes in the high street” in the long-term but trading needed to improve further before reopening.
During a TTG Face To Face online interview, Jones told TTG news editor Jennifer Morris that Kuoni had quietly opened one of its shops in Guildford to see what business was like on the high street.
“We wanted to test what demand was like with Guildford,” he added. “Sadly that has confirmed what we were thinking – we’re only doing about a third of the numbers as this time last year.
“We’ve not getting anything like the revenue to justify the cost base and logistics we have to go through.”
Jones said that the current restrictions on retail shops also meant Kuoni could not offer the type of personal experience in-store that customers were used to.
“It’s not a transaction that works well through a Perspex screen,” he added.
Kuoni is continuing to use video calls with customers with around 100 being conducted per week and conversion rates of 40-50%.
“By not rushing into opening stores we can keep more people for longer by putting them into a virtual call centre environment,” said Jones.
“When the time is right, we will be back on the high street with a vengeance. We will sit back a little longer and wait for a bigger recovery before coming back.”
Due to the impact of the coronavirus, Kuoni is currently going through a full strategic business review running until the middle of August.
Jones said that his “ambition” was to re-employ any staff who end up losing their jobs when trading recovers.
“I hope that’s in a short period of time, not a long period of time,” he added.