Thomas Cook and Co-op merging store networks

Hotel News - 11/10/2010

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Two of the heavyweights in Britain’s high-street travel industry are merging their store networks. The Thomas Cook and the Co-operative Group travel chains will retain separate branding but the merger of the high-street store chains will produced a combined network of more than 1,200 travel stores. This will be the biggest travel agency network in the UK.

The merger will be done by forming a new joint subsidiary company. Thomas Cook will hold 70 per cent of the new firm. Co-operative will control the 30 per cent remaining. The merger is expected to lead to cost savings but hundreds jobs will also go as a result.

A Thomas Cook representative said the merger could lead to hundreds of jobs being eradicated. Thomas Cook’s chief executive, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, said a few stores may close but it would not be a large number. He added that the deal will inevitably lead to some rationalisation as overlapping areas in the combined businesses are consolidated. The two companies currently have staffing of roughly 9,000 in the existing travel stores.

As part of the merger, shops operated by Co-operative will begin selling products from Thomas Cook. Both travel firms said this would offer a huge opportunity to boost sales. Seventy of the shops under the Going Places brand of Thomas Cook will assume the Co-Operative Travel brand. The online travel operations run by Thomas Cook are, however, not part of the merger.

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