10% of Pret A Manger stores may not survive as trade vanishes

Pret a manger

Pret A Manger’s 8,000 UK staff will learn if their jobs are safe or not this week as the food chain weighs up how many of its stores it can keep open.

Pano Christou, Pret’s chief executive, said at the weekend that as many as one in ten of its 410 UK stores may shut as the company battles for its survival.

The bleak outlook was revealed by Mr Christou — who said he was having “sleepless nights” about the impending cuts — as it emerged that 56,000 jobs have already been affected across the retail industry by the Covid-19 crisis.

The Centre for Retail Research said more jobs have been threatened through insolvencies at large retailers during the first half of 2020 than during the whole of last year.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Christou, 42, said the collapse in trade that the pandemic has caused could see “5 per cent to 10 per cent of our stores close in the UK”.

Last month he told landlords that Pret was “in the eye of the storm” as he warned them to expect no more than 30 per cent of second-quarter rent because UK sales are running at less than 20 per cent of normal levels.

Pret was founded by Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham in central London in 1986 and has more than 550 stores in nine countries, including 120 overseas. In 2018 it was acquired by JAB Holding Company, the conglomerate behind Kenco coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, for £1.5 billion.

Pret was hit particularly hard by the lockdown as about 70 per cent of its UK outlets are in London, which has seen a collapse in footfall with most customers working from home.

Sales at Pret’s café in Paternoster Square near St Paul’s Cathedral, for example, are down by 90 per cent compared with normal trading.

According to the Centre for Retail Research, 2,630 stores and 55,976 jobs have been linked to insolvency proceedings during the first six months of 2020.

Laura Ashley, Debenhams, Monsoon Accessorize and TM Lewin are among the retailers that have gone into insolvency since March.