While many frontline staff at the travel giant face losing their jobs, the City will pass judgement on boss Harriet Green's turnaround plan announced today, says Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley
The loss of 195 Thomas Cook and Co-op Travel shops and 2,500 jobs is unmitigated bad news.
No doubt some stores will be snapped up by other retailers and some staff will move on speedily to other jobs. But 3,000 must endure the anxiety of redundancy consultation while the former Co-operative Travel and Midlands Co-op Travel chains are reduced to shadows of their former selves, 18 months after a deal that was supposed to guarantee their future.
The closures will bring Cook’s retail estate back to about what it was before the October 2011 merger. Co-op Travel staff must feel especially let down. Cook staff might well wonder whether shops would have stayed open without the joint venture.
It must have been galling to hear the City welcome the redundancy news, but that reflects the other side of the announcement: the need for Thomas Cook to restore the confidence of investors.
Group chief executive Harriet Green presented her long-awaited strategy to analysts this morning, so we await their response. Rumours of imminent fundraising may herald the next stage of corporate recovery.
Indeed, on one level the closures merely represent a fresh step in a process. After all, Thomas Cook UK closed 168 shops last year. Abta chairman John McEwan is not alone in expecting more to come. But Cook’s UK chief, Peter Fankhauser, insists “we’re entirely happy with 874 shops”.
Fankhauser rightly stresses the need to act “with integrity and respect for the people who are leaving and to convince our people we are going to have a strong future”.
What a tragedy so many staff will first have to pay the price for previous mistakes.
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