TUI Travel is merging the management of its First Choice and Thomson retail chains but maintains the brands will continue to operate separately on the high-street.
As part of the changes to the distribution team, the previous two directors of retail sales and operations have been merged into one retail director role across First Choice and Thomson shops. This role has been taken by former Thomson director of retail sales and operations Kathryn Ward.
Former First Choice director of retail sales and operations Rad Sofronijevic is currently working on a special projects for the group’s specialist division, which comprises tour operators such as Hays and Jarvis, Thomson Worldwide, and Meon Villas.
Meanwhile, commercial and trading director Natalie Hufton has extended her maternity leave and her role has been replaced by former head of distribution integration Helen Deegan. The group said a new role will be sought for Hufton on her return.
From the start of December the structure of the divisional sales managers for the retail brands also changed. Previously each brand had a north and south divisional sales manager. There are now four divisional sales managers across both brands operating in four areas: northeast, northwest, south and the Midlands. A fifth divisional sales manager continues to work on the Holiday Hypermarkets.
Further integration changes to ensure regional managers now work across both brands instead of just one are due to take place in April. This will result in regional managers working across a smaller geographical area of First Choice and Thomson shops.
Distribution director Nick Longman said the changes were aimed at improving performance across the two TUI Travel-owned retail chains, which already work on the same back-office systems. Thomson and First Choice became sister brands when their parent companies merged in 2007.
He added: “It has always been my intention to maintain the two high-street brands but to have one management team running it. We will have a fully integrated structure in the spring when regional managers will have more time to focus on a smaller geographical area of shops. It’s an absolute given that the two brands will stay separate.”
Longman has also tasked some regional sales managers to look at the best ways to run the brands by transferring them across on a trial period to their opposite brand. Within a few months they will report back on their findings.“There are different cultures at work in the two businesses and we want to work out best practice for both brands,” said Longman.
Meanwhile, commercial and trading staff from TUI Travel’s Luton offices are also being transferred from Coventry to the group’s Luton head office. The group has also moved the remaining 70-80 staff out of its former First Choice head office in Crawley - which once housed 450 staff - into its former Air 2000 airline office at Gatwick. The lease on the group’s former head office runs out in August.