// Independent travel agency Hays Travel to buy 555 stores from collapse competitor Thomas Cook
// Hays has already recruited 421 former Thomas Cook staff and has offered employment to more
// The deal will boost the high street presence of Hays
One of the UK’s largest travel agencies has said it will save thousands of high street jobs at Thomas Cook after it made a deal to buy 555 of its stores around the UK.
Hays Travel has already employed 421 members of Thomas Cook staff since the business collapsed last month after an unsuccessful rescue bid.
Hays Travel now intends to reopen the former Thomas Cook shops immediately, potentially saving up to 2500 further jobs.
It also promised to create another 100 jobs at its Sunderland headquarters.
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“It is a game-changer for us, almost trebling the number of shops we have and doubling our workforce – and for the industry, which will get to keep some of its most talented people,” Hays Travel founder John Hays said.
“We are looking forward to welcoming many more people who share our passion for the travel industry, into our family business.”
When the 178-year-old Thomas Cook business folded on September 23, it left around 150,000 passengers stranded abroad, airlines grounded and thousands of staff in the UK and worldwide out of work.
The last of those stranded passengers were returned to the UK on Monday.
“This is an extremely positive outcome, and we are delighted to have secured this agreement,” said Jim Tucker, a KPMG partner who was appointed joint special manager of Thomas Cook’s retail division after the collapse.
“It provides re-employment opportunities for a significant number of former Thomas Cook employees, and secures the future of retail sites up and down the UK high street.”
Tucker said the administrators would work with Hays to “ensure a smooth transition of the store estate”.
“We are pleased to have achieved this in a short timeframe and in the context of a complex liquidation process, which is testament to a lot of hard work from a number of parties,” he said.
Hays was founded in County Durham 40 years ago and reached £1 billion in sales last year.