As Thomas Cook celebrates its 175th anniversary, retail boss Kathryn Darbandi has predicted the company’s high-street travel agents will still exist ‘for many years to come’.

The retail chain now has 796 branches across the UK, including a handful which were among the first to be opened by founder Thomas Cook.

Shops in Liverpool, Harrogate and Dundee rank among the company’s oldest shops in the current network, although its very first shop, which opened in London’s Fleet Street in 1865, no longer exists.

Speaking as the company prepares to mark the official 175th anniversary date this month with a series of events, Darbandi, director of retail and customer experience, said Thomas Cook shops would remain an important part of the business while the look and feel of the stores would continue to evolve.

She said: “My prediction is that retail will always be a very big channel for us at Thomas Cook. I don’t think that will change much for us.

“Yes, in 20 to 30 years’ time, shops will have evolved, but I don’t think it will change how important the people are and the product knowledge; that’s why agents are there.

“The look and feel of the shops will constantly evolve, but there will still be a requirement for agents on the high-street for many years to come.”

The company’s commitment to its shop network is demonstrated, said Darbandi, by its plans to open 10 more state-of-the-art ‘concept’ stores in the next 12 months in shopping centres or out-of-town retail parks where high footfall is guaranteed and where Cook doesn’t currently have shops.

Darbandi added: “Our strategy is to be accessible. People need to be able to find our shops easily and be able to drive to one of our shops in 20-30 minutes time.”