Hays Travel now has more staff in the 461 former Thomas Cook shops it has opened since taking on the travel giant’s retail estate than were employed in all 553 of its shops at the time of collapse.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, John and Irene Hays were once again championing the the model of the high street travel agent.
John Hays explained how 2,000 of the 2,500 retail staff employed by Cook had been retained by Hays Travel, but that 3,000 were now employed in the shops overall.
“The key thing is jobs,” he said. “What we found is that, like many companies in financial difficulty, [Thomas Cook was] cutting staff; 2,500 staff isn’t enough. Currently, we have 3,000 staff in those shops that had gone down.”
Hays also revealed that the business made more than £2 billion worth of sales in the year when its acquisition of the Cook retail estate expanded its network from around 180 shops to more than 640.
Irene Hays said 461 of the 553 former Thomas Cook shops taken on by Hays were open as of Thursday morning.
When asked about sales in a month that the UK is due to depart the EU, Hays said they were “terrific” adding: “It’s been a different picture across the country but they are higher than last year. We have three shops in Sunderland and sales are up in all of them.”
The Hays were quizzed on their strategy when the Cook acquisition left them with multiple stores in the same town, to which John Hays said: “We are making a commercial decision. In many cases we are keeping them open. In some [towns], we have three.”
Interviewers pushed for a number of customers walking into the shops each day. Irene Hays, after explaining that the business model was not solely walk-in customers but based on online sales and enquiries generated through social media channels, said “tens of thousands” of people are visiting the stores. She added hat two thirds of customers have researched online before visiting stores and that “simple transactions” were often carried out online.
John Hays reiterated the point he made after the deal was completed about the Cook travel agencies overall being profitable, and told interviewers asking how they were able to turn the business around that: “When we looked at [the retail estate], it was profitable in its own right. It was brought down by the bigger entity of the tour operator and the airline. We thought there was something to work on.”
Irene Hays went on to say the role of a high street business was more than absorbing footfall, adding: “You need to engage in the places you are and be part of the community you are in. We are really passionate about that.”
She noted that each Hays Travel shop is given a £500 grant to spend on a good cause in their community, adding: “We think it’s a duty for people on the high street to be part of their communities.”
Podcast: John and Irene Hays