December 1, 2017 / 12:40 PM / a year ago

Thomas Cook to close 50 UK stores as sales move online

LONDON (Reuters) - Travel firm Thomas Cook said on Friday it would close 50 stores in Britain as part of an ongoing review into its shop network, as more and more sales move online.

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said that 400 staff would be affected by the closures, although many employees were likely to be redeployed to other shops across its network.

While Thomas Cook has been a staple of the UK high street, traditional package holidays sold in stores are now less vital to its strategy as online sales - which grew 27 percent in the UK in 2017 - take off.

The plan is to shut branches that are close to other stores or have seen dwindling profits due to fewer customers. Thomas Cook UK’s Director of Retail and Customer Experience Kathryn Darbandi said that the company had to offer different sales channels to succeed.

“We continually review our network of stores across the UK to make sure we’re offering customers the best of Thomas Cook,” she said in a statement.

“We will offer them a world-class service whichever channel they chose to book, be that retail or online.”

Thomas Cook said the closures would happen by March 2018.

The travel firm said in its full-year results last week that it had cut its retail network in the UK by 45 percent in the last five years, ending September with 692 stores. However, 47 percent of Thomas Cook holidays are still booked instore.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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