Heart of England Co-op closes travel division

Heart of England Co-op closes travel division

The Heart of England Co-operative Society is closing its travel division after 26 years as its operations manager prepares to set up on her own.

Ten staff have been made redundant by the closure of the Co-operative’s travel division, which operated under the Freedom Travel Group and had two branches in its department stores in Leamington Spa and Bedworth.

No bookings have been taken since August 31 and the travel division officially ceases trading on September 30. Customers have been informed.

The Co-operative’s travel branches previously came under the Travelcare brand, which later became part of The Co-operative Travel.

It rebranded to Heart of England three years ago after the joint venture of The Co-operative Travel with Thomas Cook and became a member of the Thomas Cook-owned Freedom Travel Group.

Operations manager Caroline Bentley-Showell is staying on until the end of September to oversee the administration of existing bookings but has already put in place plans to set up her own agency in Bedworth, taking on two of the former Co-op staff. Many other staff have been helped to find other employment, she added.

“I am staying on with some senior staff to continue the administration. After that Freedom will take over administration of the bookings until 2017,” said Bentley-Showell, whose new agency will be called Travel Finesse.

It will be located in Bedworth and operate under the Freedom group.

“I have had lots of support from Freedom and Abta and I am really positive. It’s sad to lose these branches but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

In a statement the Heart of England Co-operative Society said:

“Following a recent review of its business, the Heart of England Co-operative Society’s board of directors has taken the decision to close its travel businesses in Bedworth and Leamington Spa on the September 30, 2015.

“No further bookings are being taken. All existing bookings will be taken over by holiday provider Freedom from the October 1.

“It is a decision which has not been taken lightly. However the retail environment has become increasingly challenging and it is vital that we take steps to safeguard the Society’s position to ensure the business continues to be sustainable.

“In the meantime our priority will be our employees and a period of consultation has now commenced. ”

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