A TRAVEL company which swooped in to save collapsing Thomas Cook stores has now closed a string of shops.

Hays Market shut its North Street branch in Brighton suddenly on Saturday and plans to close its site in George Street, Hove, imminently.

The company says this is to “consolidate all of the jobs into the Church Road, Hove, branch, which is a much better premises”.

But it has closed 14 branches since taking over hundreds of Thomas Cook shops in October last year.

The 178-year-old holiday firm collapsed into liquidation after last-ditch rescue talks failed in September, leaving thousands of customers stranded abroad mid-way through their vacations. The UK Government was forced to charter 45 jets to bring holidaymakers home.

Thousands of employees also faced the prospect of losing their jobs as 555 UK shops faced closure.

But Hays Travel came to the rescue, buying all the shops and offering jobs to almost 2,500 former Thomas Cook staff members.

The purchase saw the company double its workforce and treble its shop numbers. This included the branch in North Street, Brighton, and two further shops in George Street and Church Road, both in Hove.

But now the travel firm has decided to shut two of these.

The North Street branch closed its doors for the final time over the weekend, just three months after it reopened under new ownership.

When The Argus visited on Tuesday the inside had been cleared and there was a sign on the window directing customers to the Hove branch.

Since then, the company has also confirmed it plans to shut its George Street store, keeping Church Road as its last remaining site in the city.

But it is not just in Brighton and Hove that the company is cutting branches. It revealed that, since taking over the Thomas Cook stores, it had closed 14 shops – seven in the UK so far this year.

A spokeswoman said: “We are merging the two stores in Hove into much bigger, brighter and better premises.

“It has been difficult to recruit staff for the Brighton store and, although we have tried to make it work by diverting staff from other branches, it’s not been possible to keep it open permanently.

“However, it’s very close to the new store and all of our employees are continuing to work for us, either at the new store or other branches near them.”