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30 Nov 2016

BY Jennifer Morris


Thomas Cook could still open new 'Neighbourhood' stores despite 'Discovery' concept push

While Thomas Cook’s focus is on almost tripling its number of Discovery concept stores in the next three years, more Neighbourhood stores could open as well.


New 'Neighbourhood' stores remain on the table for Thomas Cook

In October Thomas Cook announced it would close 28 of its high street stores as part of a restructuring of its retail network.


The closures, which have now all been completed or are nearing completion, were part of a wider revamping of Cook’s store network, which will see the operator “refocus” its shops into two formats - Thomas Cook Discovery and Thomas Cook Neighbourhood.


Cook opened Westfield Stratford City earlier this month, followed by Chelmsford, and Belfast will open next week.
A further location is “very close” to being confirmed.


Cook aims to open a further 21 Discovery stores in the next three years.


Speaking to TTG at its retail conference in Paphos, Cyprus, Thomas Cook director of retail and customer experience, Kathryn Darbandi, said: “There could be more Neighbourhood stores though.


“We are mainly looking at shopping centres and retail parks, but there are still some smaller towns we don’t have a presence in.


“We will always have many more neighbourhood stores than discovery ones – they’re what I describe as the backbone of the company. They specialise in service and building relationships with their customers.


“The Discovery stores are a bit more tech-focused.


“People always ask if we are going to close more stores. We will always look at the performance of a store when the lease expires.


“But the message at the conference has been that we are opening new shops, we are refurbishing lots of shops and we are looking at some relocations.”


Darbandi also announced at the conference that all new-joiners [whether part-time, apprentices or full-time] will undergo a four-day residential induction at Cook’s Peterborough headquarters.


“That news went down very well,” she said.


“We want them to meet some of the key people and make those connections that will help them in their work.”

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