Hays Travel aims to re-open all 555 former Thomas Cook shops after acquiring their leases but confirmed they will trade under the Hays name as the Cook brand is not included in the deal.
Managing director John Hays said a “good percentage” of the shops will be open by tomorrow.
Speaking in a media briefing following the announcement, he said the company had not taken on any debt to finance the deal – and had bought the leases outright.
Hays said: “We are quite optimistic in regards to how we will trade. We are a successful business and because we are independent and offer all the tour operators then we are optimistic we will trade well in all the shops.”
When asked about duplication in locations where Hays Travel already has a branch, he said: “In towns and cities where we have an overlap, where we have under-performing shops, we will do what any business would do – and have a look at them.”
Hays Travel has taken on the existing leases of all the shops, their fixtures and fittings, and all client data.
Chair Irene Hays explained: “The structure of the deal means that we will take over the shops on existing arrangements. Then we have an opportunity to get to know the landlords and build relationships. The rents have all been negotiated at different points of time and have different terms left on them.”
She said Hays Travel had spoken to around 140 landlords so far, and conversations had been “only positive” so far.
Hays Travel was given access to some data to assess the profit and loss of branches, but not everything was available.
Irene Hays said: “There were some issues in getting complete data but we have a good understanding of how retail works. In some locations the rents are high, and quite a few of the shops are losing money.
“[But] we do believe that the model we have here at Hays Travel, and because we don’t pay ourselves a lot of money or have any huge overheads like a grandiose head office in the city, that there are a number of factors that have de-risked it for us.
“We have looked at all of these and are comfortable and confident that now we have had a proper look, we will maintain the vast majority [of shops].”
The deal with the Official Receiver, the liquidators, and KPMG, was agreed at 11:53pm on Tuesday night – which John Hays noted was exactly six years to the day the firm doubled its retail network with the acquisition of 58 Bath Travel branches.
Hays hopes to take on as many of the 2,500 Thomas Cook retail staff as possible, and urged them all to apply via its new dedicated web page, which Irene Hays pointed out had had 3,100 users per minute in the first two hours – while 401 calls had been made from former Cook staff.
The 2,500 recruits includes the 597 ex-Cook staff Hays Travel has already agreed to take on.
Earlier on Wednesday it was understood Barrhead Travel, Midcounties Co-operative, Millington Travel, Polka Dot Travel and Miles Morgan Travel were also among retailers to have lodged bids with the liquidators of Thomas Cook for its former stores.
Hays has been operating for 40 years and reached sales of more than £1 billion in 2018.