80742145 - arecife, spain - april, 15 2017: airbus a321 of thomas cook with the registration g-tcdj ready to take off at lanzarote airport

Thomas Cook to close 50 of its stores in the face of growing online sales

Thomas Cook has said it is planning to close 50 of its 690 stores as part of a review of its UK retail network. The proposed closures will take place by March next year and will affect up to 400 staff at a mix of Thomas Cook and Co-operative Travel branded stores.

“We hope to redeploy a large proportion of those people,” a spokesperson said.

Thomas Cook says the stores affected are either close to other stores or are located where a fall in customers has hit profitability.

The firm would not disclose the location of the stores under threat.

Less than half (47%) of its holidays have been booked in store this year, Thomas Cook said, while online sales in the UK grew by 27%.

“We continually review our network of stores across the UK to make sure we’re offering customers the best of Thomas Cook, and it is clear that to succeed we have to operate as a truly omni-channel business,” said Thomas Cook UK’s director of retail and customer experience, Kathryn Darbandi.

The announcement comes just a week after the firm reported that earnings at its UK division had plunged by 40% in the year to 30 September.

Rising hotel prices, the fall in the pound and competition in the Spanish market have all affected the travel firm.

A spate of fraudulent illness claims and arrangements to help customers caught up in Hurricane Irma had also pushed up costs at the company.

At the time, chief executive Peter Fankhauser promised to arrest the slide in the UK, saying it had “implemented a set of actions to improve performance.”