Thomas Cook: We don’t plan to close stores as we did last year

Thomas Cook says it is “very comfortable” with its high street store network and insisted it has no plans to reduce numbers next year as it did in 2013.

Speaking to Travel Weekly at the retailer’s new concept store in Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, retail director Joanna Wild said Cook was looking to stabilise after closing 195 stores last year.

Pressed on whether there were plans to increase or decrease the number of Thomas Cook stores, currently at 849, Wild said: “No, we’re very comfortable.”

She added: “As is well-documented, the big change programme took place last year. Going into next year, we have no intention of doing anything on that scale at all.

“Next year is about stabilising, setting foundations, testing new concepts such as Bluewater [store], and focusing on the service we deliver to our customers.”

And she emphasised: “As far as we’re concerned, going into next year we don’t plan to close stores, as we did last year, let me be clear on that point.”

Cook recently revealed an underlying profit of £33 million for the three months to the end of June and indicated a longer-term strategy to reduce its retail footprint.

Chief operating officer Peter Fankhauser indicated a retail estate of between 500 and 600 shops was “ideal” and said this could be achieved “over the next five years”.

Cook currently has five concept stores in England and one in Scotland. It will review them at the end of September to decide whether to open more and where.

The Bluewater store is the first to feature an Oculus Rift 3D virtual reality headset that allows customers to ‘experience’ holiday destinations and attractions before booking.

Asked about the impact of high-profile incidents such as flight MH17 and political unrest overseas, Wild said travellers had not been put off.

She admitted it had been a tough market this year but added: “We’re comfortable where we are from a sales point of view.”

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