Thomas Cook to double number of concept stores

Thomas Cook to double number of concept stores

Thomas Cook has revealed it is to double the number of concept stores in its retail estate to 20 in the next year.

The new flagship stores are planned in areas where Cook does not already have a presence.

Kathryn Darbandi, director of retail and customer experience, said five shops were already “in the pipeline” and due to open within six months. Locations have not yet been revealed.

Cook currently has 10 concept stores in its 796-strong retail estate. These tend to be in out-of-town or high footfall locations, such as regional shopping centres, and boast the latest technology, including virtual reality headsets, large touchscreen TVs and tablets, in a modern environment.

Revealing the news as Thomas Cook gears up to mark its 175th anniversary, Darbandi said: “These are flagship, sizeable stores where we know we can do very well with the Thomas Cook brand.

“We are quite well-progressed with five of the stores.”

In May the company announced it was closing 12 stores but hinted at expansion into new locations.

The new openings will coincide with an ongoing shop refurbishment programme, which represents a “significant” investment, according to Darbandi.

Cook refurbished 30 shops this year and plans to revamp a further 50 by Christmas and another 50 early next year.

Darbandi, who joined in April last year from Tui, added: “This is about replacing furniture and brochure racks, making the shops lighter, fresher and more modern. 

 “We have also invested heavily in our windows in the last 12 months; they are less cluttered and more modern.

“My view is we need to look the best [travel agency] on the high street. We have got work to do and that is why we have got a refurbishment programme.

“It is a significant investment and endorses the importance of retail [shops] in the business.”

At the recent ITT conference in Tel Aviv, Cook UK managing director Chris Mottershead was shown a picture of a store and admitted it looked uninspiring.

Last year Thomas Cook spent £9 million on store refits and £98 million on shop closures group-wide, according to the company’s annual report.

Darbandi added there were also plans to further increase the number of Cook agents going on fam trips next year. This year the company will have sent 500 on trips, double last year’s figure.

“It would be wonderful to send one agent from each shop so if we could get up to 800 next year that would be a great milestone,” she said.

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