Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 9th October 2019
Thousands of employees of the recently collapsed travel and holiday group Thomas Cook could soon see their jobs saved by a deal that has Hays Travel acquire their former employer’s high street stores.
A total of 555 outlets are to be snapped up by Hays Travel, which is now the largest independent travel agents operation in the country.
The purchase of the high street stores is designed as a move to boost Hays’ presence across the UK, with the company’s stated intention being to reopen the former Thomas Cook outlets as soon as possible.
An estimated 2,500 people could see their jobs saved as a result of the deal, with close to 600 offers of employment already having been made by Hays Travel to former Thomas Cook staff.
Around 9,000 people were employed by Thomas Cook in the UK when the 178-year-old business collapsed into compulsory liquidation on September 23rd.
Jim Tucker from KPMG, who was recently appointed joint special manager of the Thomas Cook retail division, described the sale of the 555 stores to Hays Travel as “an extremely positive outcome”.
“We are delighted to have secured this outcome,” he said, adding, “it provides re-employment opportunities for a significant number of former Thomas Cook employees and secures the future of retail sites up and down the UK high street”.
“Over the weeks ahead, we will work closely with Hays Travel and landlords to ensure a smooth transition of the store estate,” Mr Tucker added.
John and Irene Hays, who are respectively managing director and group chairwoman of Hays Travel, have described Thomas Cook as a “much-loved brand employing talent people”.
“Thousands of really capable people who had done nothing wrong lost their jobs,” said Mr Hays in a statement.
“I’m proud to say that we've acquired the whole retail estate of Thomas Cook, 550 shops and over a billion pounds worth of sales,” he added.
“We are pleased to have achieved this in a short time-frame and in the context of a complex liquidation process, which is testament to a lot of hard work from a number of parties.”
Ian Bell, head of travel and tourism at accountancy firm RSM, said it was a "shrewd move" for Hays, but would also represent a quadrupling of its travel agency stores at a time when customers are increasingly booking holidays online.
"Much may depend on the deals that Hays can strike with its new High Street landlords," said Mr Bell.
As Hays bought the stores from the administrators, it means it will have bought them at a lower price than if Thomas Cook was still trading.
Julie Palmer, partner at Real Business Rescue, said that in waiting, Hays had got a "best price" for the stores.
"You have to wonder what Hays' plan is and how they can make it a success.
"Has the travel firm been gung-ho in trying to secure a cheap deal without assessing the viability of taking on these stores?," she asked.