Flexibility crucial as high street agents prepare for return to shops

High street agents say flexibility is critical as many prepare to reopen their doors on April 12 alongside other non-essential retail.

Among those reopening will be Midcounties Co-operative Travel’s shop network, which has used the opportunity to rebrand its agencies from Co-operative Travel to Your Co-op Travel.

Three of Midcounties’ 78 stores will open with the new name next week, while its seven Carrick Travel branches will not be rebranded.

MoreSpecial Report: Open all hours as lockdown eases?

Advantage Travel Partnership said more than 80% of members surveyed plan to reopen in England on April 12 but with revised hours and staff rotas.

Leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “The majority will show some [high street] presence but most will do shorter hours, such as 10am until 3pm or 4pm, and not all are going to open on Saturdays because of staffing. Some will do appointments, or closed-door policies. It’s tricky – once retail shops are allowed to open, the support [such as furlough] goes.”

With the lack of clarity on travel’s restart, agents said flexibility was key.

The Travel Network Group said many members were keeping staff on flexi-furlough until demand returns, while 50% of Advantage members surveyed by the consortium said they would still need to use furlough until it ends in September.

Miles Morgan Travel is opening stores without full complements of staff but is ready to scale up if the Global Travel Taskforce’s findings – due imminently – are positive.

Chairman Miles Morgan admitted: “It’s impossible to call. You have to have a game plan for every eventuality. We’ll have to review it if demand drops away.”

Barrhead Travel, which will reopen its stores in England on April 12 and in Scotland on April 26, said it had learnt from last year’s reopenings and was preparing to be “as flexible and reactive as possible”.

President Jacqueline Dobson said: “In addition we have to prepare for regional or localised lockdowns, so we have a rapid closing strategy in place to ensure we can seamlessly move people back to remote working.”

MoreSpecial Report: Open all hours as lockdown eases?

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