THE Leven branch of the Thomas Cook travel company is facing closure.
The Commercial Road outlet, which has a staff of two, is one of 18 Scottish stores threatened with the axe as the company focuses on “the turnaround of the business”.
Ninety-day consulation periods began last week with employees in the affected shops, with the company claiming it is on “the next phase of the three-year programme to transform its operations”.
Joanna Wild, managing director of the Thomas Cook Co-operative retail network, told the Mail: “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.
“Following the announcement that the Leven Thomas Cook store is proposed to close, we are now working with those colleagues who are potentially affected.
“We’d like to thank both our colleagues and customers for the commitment and understanding during this process.
“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.”
Travel agent companies have occupied the Commercial Road premises for many years, with such names as Nairn Travel, Carlston World Choice and A. T. Mays preceding Thomas Cook.
Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook UK & Ireland’s chief executive officer, said: “It is never easy to make decisions that impact directly on our people, but we also owe it to our customers to shape the business effectively and ensure that, when they book their holiday with us, our administrative costs are as low as possible. As we improve and develop our online capabilities, maintaining a strong presence on the high street is an important part of our omni-channel strategy.
“Even after these changes, we will still have one of the largest retail networks in UK travel.
“It is essential we operate with the right number of people as we move forward into the next era for our company, allowing us to meet the future needs of our customers more effectively,” added Mr Fankhauser.
“These proposals will mean a stronger Thomas Cook that continues to be a major employer in the UK dedicated to providing excellent holiday experiences to our 23 million customers.
“We are in consultation with our unions and employee representative bodies to minimise the impact of these changes, and I am speaking personally to all employees to provide information and support through this period of consultation.”
The company announced last week it was to cut 2500 jobs in the UK and close almost 200 stores as it attempts to revive its profitability amid a “difficult trading environment”.
A majority of the Scottish branches affected are in towns similar to Leven, and 84 jobs in total are at risk across the 18 outlets.
In the last financial year to September, Thomas Cook reported pre-tax losses of £485.3 million and has already closed 149 stores across the UK.
It’s understood the company got into difficulty in 2011, when the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa affected its extensive operations in Egypt and Tunisia.
The company has since struggled with high debt and the wider downturn in the global travel sector, with debts of about £788 million.
In May last year, the group secured a £1.4 billion refinancing package, giving it a further three years to repay its debts.