Hays Travel has saved £1.8million so far from cost-cutting and revenue-generating ideas sent in by staff since the start of lockdown.

Directors John and Irene Hays received over 1,000 suggestions of how to save money as soon as it became clear the impact the Covid-19 pandemic was going to have on the business.

Irene Hays said: “We did some, I think, quite interesting work with all of our people. We have some incredibly bright, sound people in Hays Travel and we took early steps to seek their advice on the sorts of things you should be doing to reduce costs.

“We received in excess of 1,000 good ideas for saving costs or generating revenue and that saved us £1.8 million pounds from the suggestions of staff. Some of them were relatively small, such as ‘stop cleaning the windows as frequently’ or ‘stop paying to have free milk in our shops’. But other people asked if we could go back and renegotiate contracts we have with suppliers, and our supply team were just astonishing.”

She added: “It’s difficult because of the size of the salary bill. But we have so much talent, and they give us ideas every single week. They talk to us. It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? Generally, on a Saturday morning, we go through all of the emails we’ve had from all the staff saying, ‘have you thought about doing this?’ and ‘wouldn’t it be good if we did that’. As soon as you open the door to that sort of thinking, it’s really impressive.”

Irene Hays said the company had also saved money by reducing salaries and had been one of the first to take such action.

John Hays explained: “Obviously we’ve got 5,000 staff now and we’ve got the vast majority of them working and we’re paying for them. They’re not on furlough. It’s a relatively small percentage still on furlough – foreign exchange staff for example as no-ones taking foreign exchange.”

He noted that “everything’s an awful lot bigger than it was” before Hays took over the former Thomas Cook shops, but stressed: “We don’t regret it” [the deal].

John Hays admitted furloughing thousands of staff soon after the scheme became available, 3,000 of which had now been brought back to work, had been rash.

He said: “For every company in this situation, your first instinct is to cut costs to try and survive. And we did do that. But really, really quickly – within a couple of days – I said to the board…I don’t think this is right; we’ve built the business on looking after our customers and, when we’re through this, our customers will remember who’s looked after them, and we need our people to save the sale.

“So we very quickly brought people back to work from home, to save the sale and to relate to our customers, and obviously you have some problems and you can’t keep every single customer happy, but overall, in terms of sales saved and independent results from Martin Lewis’ MoneySavingExpert, showing satisfaction rates of over 70%, it was the right decision.”

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