Many of Thomas Cook’s 555 shops will re-open tomorrow as Hays Travel stores after the UK’s largest independent travel agent cut a deal with the failed company’s liquidators to acquire its entire retail chain for an undisclosed sum.
Speaking to the media this morning, just hours after the agreement was signed, Hays Travel owners John and Irene Hays pledged to re-open every single store as soon as possible.
They revealed that they had already hired Thomas Cook’s regional managers for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Kent, Essex and East Anglia, who have in turn been re-hiring Thomas Cook staff in their areas.
So far, Hays has taken on a total of 597 former Thomas Cook staff. The retailer employed a total of 2,500 in its shops across the UK and CEO John Hays said he plans to hire ‘at least that number’, which will more than double the company’s payroll.
Hays also plans to hire ‘at least’ 100 more for its head office in Sunderland.
Within two hours of the acquisition being announced, a recruitment line set up for former Thomas Cook staff had received 401 calls and a dedicated recruitment site had received 3,000 visits a minute.
Hays is urging all ex-Thomas Cook staff to get in touch on 0800 2155995. “We would welcome them to join us,” he said.
Describing the military-style operation to re-open the shops as soon as possible, he said 1,000 laptops were delivered to the head office yesterday and staff worked through the night to configure them and ship them to locations around the UK for training.
The Northern Ireland manager even went to the airport at 2am to collect some of the laptops to begin staff training today. “We can populate the shops already, we mobilised very quickly,” said Irene. “Many will open and be trading tomorrow, the rest will follow asap.
“The commitment from ex-Thomas Cook staff joining us has been incredible,” she added. “Staff have said, we’ll pay you back John and Irene, and given us a little cuddle.”
John admitted it had been a very emotional time for both Thomas Cook staff and for them.
“These people did nothing wrong and they lost their jobs. When we’ve offered them new positions, a good percentage have cried.
“We want to employ these people, they are quality people.”
The acquisition, which includes Thomas Cook’s stores, its fixtures and fittings and its customer databases but not the brand, will almost triple the number of shops in Hays’ portfolio. John Hays admitted that in some locations there will be an overlap, but he promised to re-open every Thomas Cook store for the time being.
As part of the deal with Thomas Cook’s liquidators, Hays has guaranteed to cover the rent on all 555 shops at least untill Christmas and the leases are guaranteed for at least six months, after which Hays has the option to renegotiate and extend them.
“Where there is overlap and we have underperforming shops we will do what any good business would do economically and look at them, but we have not plans to close any, we will trade them all,” said John Hays.
He said the reason the liquidator rejected other bidders for Thomas Cook shops in favour of the deal with Hays was because it was prepared to take all the shops off its hands, rather than cherry pick the most profitable. Irene said they were unable to disclose the sum paid due to the agreement with the liquidators, but she added: “We think it was a good deal for them, and a good deal for Hays.”