Ex-Thomas Cook staff return for Hays Travel opening in Oldbury

There were tears of joy as former Thomas Cook staff returned to work under new employers Hays Travel.

Former Oldbury Thomas Cook staff Emma Bagley, Karen James and Hayley Gulliver celebrate the Hays Travel takeover
Former Oldbury Thomas Cook staff Emma Bagley, Karen James and Hayley Gulliver celebrate the Hays Travel takeover

The eight staff were reunited again at their old store at Oldbury Green Retail Park yesterday morning.

It comes after their jobs were saved following the collapse of Thomas Cook on September 23.

WATCH: Staff return for Hays Travel opening

Hays Travel, which is based in Sunderland, bought Thomas Cook’s 555 shops on October 9 - in a deal that promises to save 2,000 jobs.

Sales consultant Helen Jackson, 42, from Netherton, who worked for Thomas Cook for 15 years, said: “It was really emotional to return here, we were all in floods of tears.”

Hays Travel will offer the same kind of service as Thomas Cook, allowing holiday-makers to book trips in this country and abroad.

The team began redecorating the store yesterday. They designed hand-made posters and replaced Thomas Cook signage.

Staff hope to open for customers on Monday and are looking forward to the new challenge.

Staff member Maria Sanchez, from Coseley, creating a sign to welcome back customers

Sales consultant Karen James, 64, from Oldbury, said: “We were absolute elated to have been given our jobs back. It was something we didn’t think would ever happen to us.

“There is nothing wrong working at a check-out store but that is where we thought we would end up.

“I have done this for 48 years, so we have had another lifeline. It has given our lives back.”

The team say they are like a close-knit family.

Between them,they have amassed more than 120 years of service.

Karen has 20 years under her belt, while her colleague Emma Bagley also has 20.

Emma, 38 from Sedgley, said: “I have grown up here. It really is a close family and I think one of hardest things, when it happened on the 23rd, you didn’t just feel like it was your job but your family as well.

“We all got together and we have stayed together as well, over the last couple of weeks, and really helped one another through, so to hear the news from Hays, it was just amazing.”

That feeling of optimism has been felt by all the staff and they are looking forward to welcoming customers through the door.

Karen added: “When the collapse happened I had got customers that had gone out of their way to try and find me, so that they could come in or phone me up at home and say how sorry they were.

“And now we are ringing them back and saying ‘we are back’, and hopefully they will continue to come to the shop for us.”

Natalie Moss, Julie Price, Maria Sanchez, Karen James, Victoria Barnett and Emma Bagley celebrate the store reopening from Monday

Branch manager Hayley Gulliver said customers were really supportive when Thomas Cook announced it was closing last month.

She emphasised Karen’s point, and is hoping to welcome new customers through the door.

“A lot of people were really understanding. Our jobs were at risk,” she said. “The community have been really supportive.”

She added: “It feels surreal to be opening back up. It is really exciting.

“It is great to be back in the shop where we belong, ready to serve all our new customers and old customers, and mostly importantly back together as one team.”

There are other former Thomas Cook stores that are reopening as Hays Travel shops in the Black Country.

One is at the Mander Centre, Wolverhampton, and two at Merry Hill shopping centre, in Brierley Hill, will reopen on Monday.

Hays Travel spokesman Olivia Colquhoun said: “We are opening our new shops as fast as we can with over 200 now up and running in our first eight days.

“We know our new customers are keen to get back to greet the familiar faces at our new shops so we are working as fast as we can.”

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