The merger of Thomas Cook’s retail estate with The Co-operative Group highlights the continued demise of the high street.
Chris Brown, a co-founder of Sunshine.co.uk, said the decision to bring Cook’s retail estate of 803 shops and the Co-operative’s 401 shops together is clearly a sign of the pressures faced by bricks and mortar.
However, he added the move does not mean shops will be made extinct, simply that they must move with the times.
Brown said: “I’m not saying the high street’s business will disappear completely, people will always want to go into shops but the generation of people booking holidays coming through are young people who want to use the net and not go into a shop. Their culture is to book online.
“The high street retail offering is weakening as they are having to merge with one another. The deal is going to make them bigger but consolidation to me means only one thing; two shops (from each of the two businesses) can’t survive in the same town.”
Brown added as an online agent he is less concerned about the threat to tour operators which had large distribution deals with The Co-operative Group as they can quickly find and feature new suppliers.
He was also unsurprised to hear Thomas Cook’s website is being kept separate from the newly formed operations, adding: “It shows the strength of their online brand which is growing as we know.
“I see the merger as a way of strengthening the weaker parts of their brands.”
Tom O’Connor, sales director of Travelzoo, said the online deals site had worked with both companies in the past to good effect.
He added: “I don’t think that’s going to change. With the expertise that both companies have they can help each other out and whatever the end result is it’s going to be good for everybody.”