Midcounties Co-op Travel has bought five travel agencies from the Thomas Cook/Co-operative Travel joint venture.
As part of the deal signed today, Midcounties has taken on 18 of the company’s staff. It brings the group’s high street travel agency network to 60.
Midcounties has acquired Thomas Cook shops in Great Missenden and Market Harborough and Co-operative Travel branches in Hucknall, near Nottingham, Uttoxeter and Chelmsley Wood in the Midlands.
A further five staff have already been recruited while three to four more full and part-time staff are being sought to fill remaining positions at the Hucknall, Market Harborough and Chelmsley Wood stores.
Negotiations to take on the shops began after Thomas Cook Group announced in March it would be closing 195 stores and making 2,500 staff redundant. Midcounties had originally hoped to take on a sixth branch, the Co-op branch in Loughborough, but dropped plans because all the staff had already found other jobs.
Alistair Rowland, group general manager, travel, said: “This deal is all about the people and we didn’t want to take on a shop without a team. They had washed out the team into the existing estate.
“It’s been a challenging time for the staff but we are really excited that such knowledgeable and experienced staff are now part of us.”
The shops will all be rebranded as The Co-operative Travel and there will be “minimal cosmetic changes” in stores where necessary. They will be shut for a week for staff training.
This is the second batch of shops Midcounties has acquired from Thomas Cook. Last year it took over seven shops, including big stores in Solihull, Lichfield and Sutton Coldfield. It also recently opened a shop in Stafford after a travel agent at a Midlands Co-operative outlet earmarked for closure contacted the association.
Rowland said the group now planned to focus on its existing shop chain rather than proactively seek out more shops. The group hopes to have around 100 stores by the end of 2015.
“I would expect to be well on the way to three figures [in terms of shops numbers] by the end of 2015. If something comes along we will look at it but we are not actively looking – we want to focus on getting a return on investment for our existing shops,” he added.
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