Midcounties to target Cook stores to 'keep Co-op brand alive'

Midcounties to target Cook stores to 'keep Co-op brand alive'

Midcounties Co-op Travel hopes to keep the Co-op brand alive on the high-street by acquiring some Thomas Cook-owned shops threatened with closure.

The group said it would also be interested in recruiting staff interested in pursuing a career as a homeworker or setting up a franchise.

Following Thomas Cook's announcement it would be shutting 195 shops, of which 115 are The Co-operative Travel and 80 are Thomas Cook stores, the group said it would be "particularly interested" in acquiring Co-op branded stores in the right locations. These became part of the Thomas Cook group following the joint venture in 2011.

Midcounties, which acquired seven shops from Thomas Cook last year,  is hoping for "constructive dialogue" in the near future with Thomas Cook if there are shops in areas within or around its current shop network. In some cases, this could involve taking on the shop's entire staff and transferring the lease to Midcounties, he added.

Alistair Rowlands, group general manager for travel services of Midcounties Co-operative, said: "We are interested in keeping the Co-op brand alive as this unfortunate process wheels out.

"If we enter constructive dialogue with Thomas Cook we will attempt to take on a number of stores, particularly the Co-ops but not exclusively. We have had a good year for our shops and they continue to form the cornerstone of our strategy.

"We would be talking about shops in and around our geography or extending our geography up as far north as Staffordshire, into the south west and down to Oxford. If there was a town where we were not represented we would take the entire team and transfer the lease, that's what we did with the seven we acquired last year."

Midcounties currently has 54 high-street shops and is targeting around 100 by the end of next year. "This would be an opportunity to make them viable stores. We would only take stores that we could be confident in," he added.

Rowland said the group would also be interested in recruiting staff within its homeworking division. It currently has around 150 members. "We would be sympathetic to anyone who wants to talk to us about homeworking or franchise opportunties. It's not ideal for everyone but already we've had an awful lot of calls."



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