Thomas Cook could axe more shops and jobs as the tour operator seeks to make “further cost efficiencies” over the next six months.
Chief executive Peter Fankhauser stressed on Thursday (16 May) that its UK retail network, currently around 580 stores, was “being reviewed on an ongoing basis” as Cook revealed a loss of £1.45 billion for the first half of its financial year.
“We need to sharpen our focus on really being efficient, especially in retail. More customers are changing into digital and we have to follow that change,” he added.
Cook said that online sales now accounted for 50% of bookings during the six months to the end of March – up by four percentage points from the same time last year.
Stores could be under threat if they “fall below the line of profitability and have no chance to return to profitability”, especially if the shop’s lease was running out, explained Fankhauser.
“The priority is that we are maximising what we can get out of our retail estate,” he added. “Having 1,200 shops is in today’s world not the best thing to have.
“We are also reviewing and streamlining the operations in Peterborough – we have to adapt the head office workforce. This is an ongoing process, which we’ve already started. We’re tackling efficiency and seeing how we can do some things more efficiently.”
The company is also reviewing the future of foreign exchange brand Thomas Cook Money, alongside the potential sale of the airline business.
Fankhauser stressed the importance of Cook’s own-brand property – particularly Casa Cook and Cook’s Club – which he said could appeal to millennial travellers.
“We’re one of the leading sun and beach hotel operators, with 200 hotels and more than 40,000 rooms,” he said. “We want to grow that to 250 hotels by 2021 with more management contracts.”
Cook has opened 12 new own-brand resorts in the past two months, with eight more due to follow during the rest of 2019. This includes four Cook’s Clubs in Mediterranean destinations, as well as its first family-orientated Casa Cook in Crete.
"We are well advanced in our aim to build our position as one of the leading sun and beach hotel companies in Europe," said Cook.