Pret a Manger is another casualty as remote working changes consumer habits and hits city centre businesses.
On the same day the powerful Confederation of British Industry issued a warning that the nation’s cities could become ‘ghost towns’ unless action is taken urgently, the well-known Pret a Manger sandwich chain announced that it is cutting almost 2 900 jobs.
Economic analysts believe it is yet another example of the way in which the significant shift to working from home is damaging traditional high street trade in the CBDs of towns and cities across Britain.
Sales are 60% lower than last year
The chain said current sales are 60% lower than for the corresponding period last year, which has made further cuts to the business inevitable.
Management had previously announced a programme of cuts during the lockdown that would close 30 branches and do away with around 1 000 jobs. The latest round of redundancies will now be added to that number.
Most of the job losses will be incurred at store level, but around 90 jobs are to go at the chain’s support centre in London.
Main source of income is commuters
Pret a Manger reopened 367 of its original 410 UK shops in July as lockdown restrictions eased, but subsequent trading has been slower than hoped.
“Pret’s main source of income is from commuters on their way to-and-from work, and with the lockdown and the subsequent fall in footfall, the company has struggled financially,” reported the publication Business Leader.
“[It’s] 367 UK stores are now open for significantly fewer hours than they were prior to the lockdown and they also revealed that its weekly sales were £5.2-million (around AUD9.45-million) in August – which is significantly lower than it has been in over a decade.”
All ‘grab-and-go’ outlets are struggling
In a media statement, Pret’s chief executive, Pano Christou, said: “I’m gutted that we’ve had to lose so many colleagues. Although we’re now starting to see a steady but slow recovery, the pandemic has taken away almost a decade of growth at Pret.”
The London-based Guardian newspaper reports that ‘grab-and-go’ food outlets which rely on hungry British office workers and commuters have been particularly hard hit by the shift in working patterns.
The airport and train station specialist SSP, which owns Cafè Ritazza and Upper Crust, said in July it would cut 5 000 jobs because of dwindling passenger numbers, while the high street cafe Le Pain Quotidien shed 200 staff after it was bought out of administration.