Midcounties Co-operative’s retail travel division Co-operative Travel is to take on 16 of Central England Co-operative’s branches.

The transfer following an agreement will see all 78 staff at the 16 branches  move across with shops set to re-open by mid-August, subject to consultation. The fascias will be rebranded to Co-operative Travel but no time scale has been set. Other branding, including point of sale materials, will also appear in the shops.

It will bring the number of Co-operative Travel shops in Midcounties’ portfolio to more than 70. The organisation said the new branches would complement existing trading areas and provide further growth in the east of England region.

Rad Sofronijevic, chief operating officer of Midcounties Co-operative’s travel division, said the move followed news Central England Co-operative was looking to reduce its focus on its travel business.

She said: “These have been extraordinary times for the whole travel sector, but with lockdown measures easing we’re well placed to grow from strength to strength.

“Travel is core to Midcounties’ long-term strategy and when we learned that Central England Co-operative was looking to emphasise its focus on other divisions and move away from travel, we wanted to take the opportunity to bring these branches under the Midcounties’ retail umbrella and further strengthen our offering.

“With our scale and expertise, we look forward to helping grow and nurture the former Central England Co-operative branches to ensure their success in the future.”

The 16 stores have supported 25,000 customers with travel arrangements over the last 12 months. The branches to be transfered to Midcounties Co-operative are Allenton (Derbyshire), Atherstone (Warwickshire), Beccles & Lowestoft (Suffolk), Castle Donington, Glenfield, Ibstock & Whetstone (Leicestershire), Diss, Kings Lynn & Thetford (Norfolk), Erdington (West Midlands), Market Deeping (Lincolnshire), Oakham (Rutland), March & Peterborough (Cambridgeshire).

A spokesperson for Central England Co-operative said: “Central England and Midcounties have a longstanding and positive relationship, with Central England recently joining Midcounties’ travel buying consortium following the demise of Thomas Cook.

“The coming together of the two businesses will enable the continuation of a Co-operative travel offer for our members and customers and the continued employment for a number of colleagues”.

The majority of Midcounties’ existing Co-operative Travel branches have now re-opened. The remainder will reopen on July 13.

All new branches from Central England Co-operative will operate using a new customer appointment system already in place at Midcounties when they reopen in mid-August.

Natalie Turner, head of branches for Co-operative Travel, said: “I am delighted that we will soon welcome these additional branches to our portfolio. The branches are well located and allow Midcounties’ Co-operative Travel to expand our presence across several new counties in England.

“We look forward to welcoming our new colleagues into the fold, helping them to navigate the new normal in travel and grow and succeed under Midcounties’ retail Co-operative Travel umbrella.”