Hays Travel purchases 555 Thomas Cook shops

All shops belonging to defunct travel group Thomas Cook have been acquired by rival company, Hays Travel.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Hays – which operates mainly in northern England – has purchased 555 units in a move which could save the jobs of 2,500 staff at the world’s former oldest travel firm.

The company has said it hopes to reopen many shops almost immediately.

John Hays, the owner of Hays, said: 'It is a game-changer for us, almost trebling the number of shops we have and doubling our workforce - and for the industry, which will get to keep some of its most talented people.

'We are pretty big already, and have a lot of buying power so our prices are competitive. We didn't embark on this without giving it very serious thought.'

Thomas Cook - which was founded in 1841 - entered compulsory liquidation on 26 September, after failing to secure a €1.1 bn rescue package from creditors and banks.

The audacious deal to buy its property portfolio dramatically increases Hays’ presence on UK high streets and gives the company a foothold in locations where it was previously absent.

However, with consumers increasingly booking holidays online, it remains to be seen how viable this venture is and if Hays makes a success of its sudden expansion.

John Hays said the firm’s strength is that it offers holidays from all operators, adding that he believes strong demand still exists for bricks-and-mortar locations providing a personal service.

However, it is not clear at this stage if all the shops will reopen, as this will hinge on talks with individual landlords up and down the country.

The development was welcomed by the British government. Business secretary Andrea Leadsom said: 'Thomas Cook's collapse has been a hugely distressing time for thousands who have lost their jobs and those that had their holidays so badly affected.

'I welcome the news that Hays Travel will be purchasing Thomas Cook's real estate, and hope this will provide significant re-employment opportunities for former Thomas Cook employees, alongside the advice and support we will continue to provide to help people find a new job as quickly as possible.'

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