Thomas Cook UK plans to axe up to 2,500 jobs – 16% of its workforce – and to close 195 stores in Britain as part of a three-year plan. The 172-year-old company said jobs at its head offices at Peterborough and Preston were also at risk, and that it would close its Accrington office. Thomas Cook UK also has offices in Egham in Surrey, Brighton, and Birkenshaw in West Yorkshire, and has already closed 168 stores and shed 1,100 workers in recent years.
Peter Fankhauser, Chief Executive of Thomas Cook UK & Ireland, has instigated a 90-day consultation with the employees affected and said that the proposals will make the company, which made a £590 million loss in its last financial year, profitable. Thomas Cook UK will maintain a “strong presence on the high street” and the stores earmarked for closure did not meet performance targets or were in areas where the group has more than one retail outlet.
Having been forced to turn to its banks for an additional £200 million of loans in 2011, the UK’s second-biggest travel company has already trimmed its airline fleet and sold off hotels. Many of the stores to be closed are Co-operative Travel stores – Thomas Cook and the Co-op merged in 2011.
Peter Fankhauser added that Thomas Cook UK was planning to open its travel agencies on Bank Holidays and Sundays, while also potentially extending opening hours during the week in an effort to meet customer demand.
Group Chief Executive Harriet Green, who took over last May, has been busy trying to transform the group. She has boosted the company’s finances following a series of disposals to reduce its £1.5 billion debt mountain, including the sale of its Indian business and several Spanish hotels.