Midcounties poised to snap up eight Cook/Co-op stores

Midcounties poised to snap up eight Cook/Co-op stores

The Midcounties Co-operative is in advanced talks to buy eight shops from the Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel retail estate, and an agency chain in southern England.

The acquisition includes The Co-operative Travel branches as well as Thomas Cook agencies.

Alistair Rowland, group general manager of travel services at Midcounties, said: “We are in advanced discussions to acquire a number of branches from Thomas Cook under the Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel brands, where they fit geographically with our growth plans.”

The society is also in advanced talks with a high street chain of travel agencies in southern England and is on the acquisition trail for further opportunities.

“The objective is to extend our trading patch both north and south,” said Rowland.

Chief executive Ben Reid has also revealed a strategy to expand around airport hubs at Birmingham, East Midlands and Bristol, which could include building new shops.

“We have commissioned someone to develop key high street branches,” he said.

“We are taking opportunities where they present themselves. We want to move into the east Midlands. Some major players are withdrawing in prime locations. There are opportunities in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester.”

Midcounties’ retail estate currently stretches from Cannock, Staffordshire, to the Forest of Dean.

The group’s travel division has posted its best year of trading for a decade, doubling profits for the year to January 26 to £1.4 million.

Reid said: “Our high street shops have had their best year in the last 10 years because of the different focus we have put on them. We are not doom and gloom about the high street – only certain styles of high street shops.”

Meanwhile, the Co-operative Travel Trading Group is set to be resurrected under the Co-op Travel brand.

The CTTG buying group launched in 2003 with five Co-operative societies as members negotiating better commercial deals with suppliers. It was disbanded officially this week following the joint venture of The Co-operative Travel and Thomas Cook.

The Midcounties Co-operative has already signed up two other co-ops to become members of its buying group: the Channel Islands Co‑operative Society and the Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society. Both were previously associates rather than members of the CTTG.

Chief executive Ben Reid said the new buying group would use the name Co-op Travel, which had been the name of the buying group prior to it being renamed CTTG. He said: “We want to resurrect the company name Co-op Travel and work under that title.”


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