Published on Friday, February 17, 2017

Thomas Cook to close 39 more stores

Thomas Cook is in discussions with staff in 39 stores it has earmarked for closure as part of a move to 'better adapt it to the changing needs of customers'.

The company wants to reduce its number of outlets from 757 to 719 over the coming months, with the 39 closures and a new Discovery store opening in Glasgow..

Fifty seven Co-operative Travel Shops are being rebranded to Thomas Cook by 2018 and new Discovery Stores will be opened. Thomas Cook plans to have a total of 25 Discover Stores by the end of 2019.

A Thomas Cook spokesman would not say which shops in its UK network would close, but said they all had leases that were coming to an end and that would not be renewed.

The company has begun a consultation process with employees, although it says it hopes many will be redeployed elsewhere in its network.

In a statement, the company said: "Thomas Cook will continue to consolidate its retail network by closing 39 stores in areas already well served by other Thomas Cook shops to ensure it is focused in locations where customers want to visit. When complete, Thomas Cook will have 719 stores nationwide.

"As part of the network improvements, Thomas Cook is building on the success of the new Discovery store concept with the launch of a brand new store this spring in Silverburn, Glasgow.

"With three openings last year - in Westfield Stratford City, Chelmsford and Belfast - Discovery stores are focused on higher footfall areas such as shopping centres and have already proven very popular with customers thanks to the fresh new design, dedicated kids areas and interactive video content.

"As well as brand new stores, Thomas Cook plans a rolling programme of refurbishments of existing stores in high footfall areas to the new format with the aim of having 25 Discovery stores by the end of 2019."

It added: "Thomas Cook continually reviews its store locations to ensure it is optimising the effectiveness of its retail network. As a result, it has identified 39 stores for closure, either because they are in areas where there are too many stores in close proximity or because a decline in footfall has impacted profitability.

"Discussions have begun with those employees affected with the hope that the majority can be redeployed across the business to retain their expertise."

Thomas Cook UK director of retail and customer experience Kathryn Darbandi said: "We're continually reviewing our network of stores across the UK to ensure that they're doing the best job they can.

"While we've seen strong growth in our online sales, we also know that more than two thirds of customers who research online come into store, valuing that face-to-face contact with our travel experts. The changes we're making ensure that we've not only got the right stores where customers most need them but also that we're creating an experience that they will recommend to their family and friends."

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  • How do they survive

    I am amazed that some High Street retailers have survived in the current economic climate. A couple of years ago I had to set up a 'mystery shopper' exercise involving 'phoning retail outlets with a few questions, and following up by making an appointment for a personal visit to get more detailed information by hard copy. Each of the researchers had the same questions, budget, long-haul itinerary proposal, and modus operandi. I was appalled at the lack of interest, professionalism, knowledge and motivation displayed by some of the counter agents with whom we made contact. I would say that the majority I would not have entrusted with a day return from Kettering to London given the basic errors that they made. Some were robotic, even face-to-face, rather like script readers in a call centre. A percentage, about 10%, were at the other extreme. Of the multiples, TC came slightly below the halfway mark. There were far worse. I just find it sad, considering the meticulous training I had at my start, and beyond, in the travel industry, how standards have declined. There is a huge reliance on technology, which would possibly be helpful if the agents were able to use it effectively, but some are barely capable of that. Whilst nobody actually used the phrase "Compu'er sez no .......", there were several instances of 'if it's not in the computer ......... ' with no offer to perhaps make an enquiry elsewhere. I feel sorry for the folk who will lose their jobs, particularly since it's often not their fault that they have been poorly trained and equipped to deal with the public, but rather that of their 'management' who are often not worthy of the name. For the service charges that agents impose, they need to understand that they have to add value in return. Few do that.

    By Allen Maclean, Friday, February 17, 2017

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