Cook sees fall in proportion of online sales in UK

Thomas Cook saw a fall in the proportion of UK bookings made online over the past year.

The company’s UK web sales rose numerically year on year but declined as a proportion of total sales by a full percentage point from 31.1% to 30.1% – despite Cook’s total UK customer numbers rising by 1.5%.

Thomas Cook acting chief executive Sam Weihagen blamed the decline on problems with the UK’s IT platform which meant many online customers had to complete bookings via call centres. He said: “We are rebuilding our platform.”

Weihagen refused to be drawn on the proportion of sales likely to be made online in future. He said: “We have an estimate for next year, after that it’s up to the development of the UK customer.

“In Scandinavia we had more than 200 shops in 2003, now we have 11. But in the UK there was a shift online two to three years ago – now the shift is not so quick.”

He added: “So long as shops are profitable we will keep them – they offer value to customers.”

An £86-million write-down in the group’s assets, announced in the results published on Wednesday, stemmed from the costs of developing a central IT platform known as Globe that has failed to deliver.

The platform was being developed by Manchester-based Blue Sky Technologies before its collapse and the work was taken in-house. Former employees of Blue Sky have brought an industrial tribunal against Cook and won an initial hearing that found they should have been subject to Transfer of Undertakings (Tupe).

Group chief financial officer Paul Hollingworth said: “We are not the first company to announce an IT write-down. We are looking at various [replacement] options with a development-lead time of 12-18 months.”

However, Hollingworth described booking online as “the way the world is moving”.

He said: “We have put a lot of money and effort behind it. The clear aim is to drive sales on the internet, but with a multi-channel approach. Over the years we are going to see more bookings online and less through shops.”

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