Homeworking groups and independent agencies are poised to snap up Thomas Cook staff facing redundancy after the travel giant announced plans to close 50 shops.
Almost 400 Cook agents were put under consultation last week in the company’s latest round of store closures as it continues to review its retail network.
The affected stores are either in close proximity or located where a decline in footfall had impacted profitability, the company said.
Where there are two stores in the same town or in close proximity, staff at both shops are under consultation.
Homeworking agencies The Travel Franchise, Brilliant Travel and Inspire were this week encouraging those affected to transfer their years of experience and expertise from the high street to set up at home.
Keith Herman, managing director of Inspire, which is recruiting for 20 homeworkers to work on its new luxury brand Hidden Retreats, said: “When things like this happen, one door closes and another opens. I’m sure those staff are pretty depressed, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“There are numerous routes to homeworking, but what we offer is quite different. We sell to the higher end of the market, but if they have got passion and the will, we will give them everything in terms of support.”
Paul Harrison, co-founder of The Travel Franchise, said the era of homeworking “was upon us”.
“Thomas Cook closing 50 stores is a shame but not a shock,” he said.
“Customers will always want to have human interaction, but now they can get this face-to-face, over the phone and via social media with trained homeworkers with exactly the same systems and training that high street agents have always had.
“99% of our homeworkers are new to travel – imagine what people with experience could achieve.”
Linda Pyle, director of Barrhead Travel’s homeworking division Brilliant Travel, said several agents had joined after being made redundant from other retailers and now ran successful businesses.
“We would love to hear from anyone considering starting their own business,” she added.
“The market for independent travel agents and home-based agents is stronger than ever thanks to their close-knit ties with local communities, in-depth knowledge and passion for providing clients with a truly personal service.
“We have welcomed 23 members in 2017 and are looking to continue our expansion in 2018.”
Cook’s 50-shop closure is the biggest cut since 195 were shut in 2013 and will reduce its portfolio to 642. The closures will take place between now and March 2018.
Case study: Paul Johnstone
Now Lets Travel, part of Brilliant Travel
Paul Johnstone was made redundant four years ago from the agency that he had been with for seven years. He shares his experience of life after redundancy and joining Brilliant Travel.
“At the time it felt like the worst thing in the world, but little did I know it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I took the leap four years ago to join Brilliant Travel and can honestly say, I have never looked back. Four years on, Now Lets Travel has expanded to two locations and I have just employed my eleventh member of staff – I even have a homeworker based in the USA.
My Brilliant Travel membership allows me to dynamically package incredible products for my customers with the peace of mind that there is absolutely no risk as they provide me with full insurances, Atol licence and back-end support. It’s been one of my best years yet – our turnover is up by 35% YOY and profits for the business are up by 72%. When I look back at my original business plan, we have already doubled the profits that we had planned to make by year five – and we’re only four years in.
It’s a daunting step to make but having the ability and resource to run your own business is the most rewarding move you will ever make.”
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