Thomas Cook to close 200 stores

Thomas Cook is expected to reveal that it will close stores and axe hundreds of jobs amid dire trading in the UK.
Thomas Cook is expected to reveal that it will close stores and axe hundreds of jobs amid dire trading in the UK.
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Thomas Cook today said it will close 200 stores over the next two years as it battles to turn around its ailing UK business.

It had already said it expects to close about 75 sites following its merger with the Co-op’s UK high street travel business, which left it with more than 1,300 travel shops, but today said a further 125 will be shut.

The group also revealed it had slumped to a £398m pre-tax loss in the year to September 30, compared with a £42m profit in the previous year, after it was hit by poor trading in the UK and the Arab Spring put tourists off travelling to Tunisia and Egypt.

It also wrote down the value of its UK and Canadian businesses.

Staff in 115 of the stores are expected to be informed that their branch is due to close today, leading to the loss of 661 jobs. The rest of the store closures will be announced over the next two years.

The group, which sells more than 22 million holidays a year in the UK, delayed its results last month as it revealed it had gone back to its lenders to ask for an additional £100m lifeline.

Its shares slumped 75 per cent in one day amid fears for its survival but the 170-year-old company claims it is now on a sound financial footing.

The group said the first quarter of its new financial year had got off to a slow start.

While there had initially been an “adverse impact” on bookings in the UK following its announcement, it said it was encouraged by customers’ response to its recent summer promotion.

Bookings from UK customers for next summer were eight per cent ahead of last year although it has also cut capacity by eight per cent. But UK bookings for the current winter season are down 11 per cent.

The company sought to play down fears that customers will steer clear of booking with Thomas Cook amid worries over its future.

Following the negative headlines over its deal with lenders, rival TUI Travel ran adverts under its Thomson brand that claimed: “Another holiday company may be experiencing turbulence, but we are in really great shape.”

Thomas Cook’s interim chief executive Sam Weihagen said: “Customers have been very supportive in recent weeks and are continuing to book with Thomas Cook.

“Bookings outside the UK were broadly unaffected by news of our refinancing and in the UK bookings have recovered well.

“For over 170 years Thomas Cook has provided customers with fantastic holiday experiences and we will continue to do so.”