Hays Travel has appointed estate agent Savills to continue negotiations with landlords of the 555 shops it has bought the leases to occupy.
Chair Irene Hays said the business had had a “fantastic response” from landlords so far and was confident the majority would consent to an assignment of the previous Thomas Cook lease or renegotiate a new lease.
She clarified the terms of the agreement which give Hays a licence to occupy all the stores for the next nine months and a further option to extend for another three months – making it 12 in total. Hays has paid rents on all properties until December 24.
“We will be negotiating with the landlords either for their consent to an assignment of the previous Thomas Cook lease or to renegotiate a new lease,” Irene Hays explained.
And she stressed: “The landlords are unable to withhold consent unreasonably. It would be a matter for the courts if they did.”
Irene Hays pointed out that the agency also owns all the fixtures and fittings of each shop, and the customer databases.
If landlords wish to lease to another business during the 12 months they would need to go to court sand seek a forfeiture of the lease from the liquidator.
Midcounties Co-operative’s chief retail officer Alistair Rowland last week said it was still in dialogue with Thomas Cook shop landlords about opening new stores despite the deal with Hays Travel.
But he conceded it was the “easiest and quickest outcome” for landlords and said many would not want to challenge the licences in court.
Irene Hays said the agency would eventually review whether it wants to keep all 555 stores, but believed the business had a “fabulous opportunity” with the likes of Jet2holidays and easyJet Holidays expanding their offering through the trade.
Hays has now opened 214 former Thomas Cook stores with another 44 due to open by October 22.
She said high streets and shopping centres had been “extremely helpful” in allowing temporary fascias to be put up, something which normally takes a long time to organise.
Irene Hays added that 2,014 former Thomas Cook employees had now been re-employed by Hays, with calls still coming in from agents who had perhaps been away on holiday when the Hays takeover of the Thomas Cook shop leases was announced.