Travel firm Thomas Cook has revealed that 45 jobs are at risk from the closure of eight of its 18 Northern Ireland stores.
The world’s oldest travel agents said it plans to close its stores at Newtownbreda, Coleraine, Bangor, Carrickfergus, Antrim, Limavady, Strabane and The Quays Shopping Centre in Newry.
The move is part of a cull of 2,500 of its 15,500 staff across the UK and Ireland as the company slims down its administration department and focuses more on its internet trade, hence the closure of some of its high street stores.
In total, Thomas Cook will close 195 stores, reducing its retail outlets to 874.
Joanna Wild, managing director of the Thomas Cook Co-operative retail, said the move is part of a re-organisation.
“As a large retailer we regularly review our network to make sure we have the right stores in the right places for our customers and regrettably there are occasions where we need to close certain branches,” she said.
“Following careful consideration, we have announced that eight stores are proposed to close in the Northern Ireland region and we are working with those colleagues who are affected.”
She said the company wasn’t abandoning its high street offering. “Our high street stores are a popular way for customers to book with us and are an essential part of our multi-channel approach alongside our websites and sales centres,” she said.
The downturn in the global travel sector has hit Thomas Cook hard over the past few years and it has struggled with a hefty debt pile.
It made a loss of £590m last year despite taking bookings from 23 million customers.
Despite the hefty losses, the company said that it performed well in the last quarter of the year.
Chief executive Harriet Green said she was confident that the ‘business transformation’, of which the latest round of closures is part, will help Thomas Cook regain a level of profitability.
“Through leveraging existing best practice and by focusing on efficiency, harnessing the power of technology and delivering on our commitments, we are addressing the most immediate challenges facing the group and creating a platform for future growth,” she said.
Stores “proposed” to close and staff “potentially affected”:
Three staff at The Co-operative Travel Newtownbreda;
Five staff at The Co-operative Travel Coleraine;
Seven staff at The Co-operative Travel Bangor ;
Five staff at Thomas Cook |Carrickfergus;
Five staff at The Co-operative Travel Antrim;
Six staff at The Co-operative Travel Limavady;
Five staff at The Co-operative Travel Strabane;
Nine staff at Thomas Cook Newry The Quays.