South Wales miniple Tailor Made Travel is to close all but four of its high street stores on Wednesday.
The travel agency chain, which has 20 shops and employs more than 100 staff, had already been operating a ‘closed door’ policy to customers since last week with staff answering customer queries via telephone and email.
However, the agency will now close 16 branches until further notice with all staff sent home.
It follows the decision of well-known brands such as Primark and John Lewis to close their shops on the high street due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company is in the process of designating staff as ‘furloughed workers’ in order to claim financial support from government to continue paying 80% of their salaries.
The company plans to set up crisis centres at four of its shops where it can employ a skeleton staff of two on a rotational basis to deal with urgent enquiries and current bookings by email, telephone or via social media. These will be based at its Penarth, Merthyr, Bridgend and Blackwood stores.
Chief executive Simon Morgan said he had made the decision after listening to the concerns of his staff.
He said: “We have to be realistic; we are going to be told to go into complete lockdown soon. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. My staff cannot work remotely so I am putting them all on to ‘furloughed’ status. I can’t see the logic of laying off staff when I have the option to do this.”
It was critical businesses acted now to protect themselves and survive, he said.
He added: “We are ‘hibernating’ to manage costs as efficiently as we can. We recognise this is going to be the most expensive six months that we have ever had and we have to behave responsibly.”
Morgan plans to set up remote access for 40 staff should they be needed to work from home, and will gear up for “100% remote access” if necessary.
He said he was in constant contact with staff via the group’s Facebook page. Employees will be paid as normal this week.
The business currently has £22 million of forward bookings but Morgan said he was now working on the assumption there would be no further revenue stream in the short term for this summer or winter.
He said: “I am now gearing up for this to obliterate all 2020 summer sales and 80% of winter sales. We have to prepare for a year of nothing.
“We would have booked £3 million worth of holidays in March; instead we have deferred £1 million worth. This is one of the most challenging things I have ever had to do with my business and I fear for the entire travel trade.”