Thomas Cook pledged its UK business transformation will “continue at pace” after the group announced its first full-year operating profit in three years today.
However, UK and Continental Europe chief executive Peter Fankhauser insisted: “This is not about job cuts.”
He said there are no plans for further shop closures other than as part of a “normal” cycle of reviewing outlets as leases come up for renewal – after shutting about one in five UK stores this year.
Thomas Cook revealed a UK operating profit of £66 million in the year to September after “virtually no profit” a year ago.
Fankhauser said: “We expect the same amount of improvements [still to come], but this is not just about cuts. It is about improving our business systems, improving our margins. It is not about any job cuts.
“Cost out is all about better operating and how we transform the business. We are increasing our costs out but it does not mean we are having further cuts.”
He added: “We are further on in our cost out [programme] than we expected.
“We reduced our [UK] shops by 204. A lot of stores will be under review in coming years where leases are running out, but to review whether we keep stores open is business as usual.
“We are consolidating our retail network as it makes business sense.”
Fankhauser suggested Cook’s retail joint venture with The Cooperative Travel could continue beyond the minimum five-year agreement signed off in 2011. He said: “There is no indication we will not run the joint venture beyond [the five years].”
He also suggested third-party distribution would remain important. Fankhauser said: “Third-party agents love us since we introduced price parity in distribution.”
The group has targeted online distribution of 50% across the business by 2015 in line with a previously announced target for the UK.
UK online distribution reached 36% in the year to September, up from 33% a year ago and on a par with the group-wide percentage.
Fankhauser said: “We targeted 50% on the web. It’s an ambitious target and we are well on the way. We have seen an improvement in the UK and in all our markets.”
He described the UK figures as “a notable first step to our target margin of 5% by 2015”. In Germany, he said: “We continue to produce industry-leading profits.”
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