Published on Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Bidding wars break out for ex-Thomas Cook shops

Bids are flooding in for the leases of Thomas Cook's 560 shops that closed following the company's collapse last month.

According to Alistair Rowland, ABTA chairman and group general manager for Midcounties Co-operative Travel, strong demand means that in most cases three bids have been made for each shop.

One shop in Stoke, rentalised at £11,000 a year, is currently attracting bids of £24,000.

Rowland said the vacant shops could be in new hands within the next four weeks.

He said Midcounties Co-operative was among the bidders.

"The trick is to get these deals done very quickly so we can keep the teams together and get them back in the shop trading," he added.

Meanwhile, travel franchise and homeworking groups have been quick to come to the aid of Freedom Travel agents who were left unable to do business after Thomas Cook went into liquidation.

"The industry came together and all of us as retailers helped Freedom agents, getting them operating within 48 hours in a process that would normally take 6-8 weeks," said Rowland.

Rowland said the struggles of Freedom staff had highlighted the need for greater clarity in the movement of cash between customers, agents and suppliers.

"I do think there's been a problem with over collection of cash early. There needs to be absolute clarity about the transition of cash and what is protected and by whom," he said.

His view was echoed by ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer who told delegates at the Convention in Tokyo: "We can and should ask what lessons can be learned, especially about when money is collected and when it passed on, when people and companies are financially protected and when not.

"And at the very least we need to ensure that everyone in the chain understands the system and makes commercial decisions on an informed basis."

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