Cook Co-op merger made latest restructure 'more painful'

Cook Co-op merger made latest restructure 'more painful'

The decision to merge Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel’s retail divisions has made the current round of redundancies all the more painful, according to Advantage boss John McEwan.

Speaking to Travel Weekly in the wake of today’s announcement of 2,500 redundancies and 195 store closures, McEwan said it “puts into sharp relief” the move by the previous regime.

The closure of a further 195 stores, effectively brings the Thomas Cook retail estate back to the size it was before the Co-op merger in 2011, at around 800.

McEwan said he believed the right number of stores for a multiple on the UK high street is between 600 and 700 and he expected further rationalisation to come.

“It’s fairly dramatic action that the company has taken, but it’s all part of the re-organisation of the company to streamline it. It’s very unfortunate for the people caught up in it but it’s necessary for Thomas Cook to do to restructure the business.

“It does put into sharp relief the decisions made by the previous management to increase their network to 1,200 shops from a retail perspective. This level of dramatic action now taking place would not have been necessary [had they not done that].”

McEwan, whose consortium represents around 800 independent outlets, said he believed the high street still had an important role to play but that it was not necessary to have so many stores.

He said that Cook had legacy issues following the merger with My Travel in 2007 which meant it had multiple branches in some locations.

Despite the likely anger among staff at today’s announcement, McEwan said the news would please Cook’s shareholders, largely the banks which helped bail out Cook.

“They will see the new management team getting to grips with a business that they see as too big.”

McEwan said the new Cook would be run much more as a single entity, rather than many distinct business units, with layers of duplication taken out.


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