Yesterday brought the news that Pret will be making 2800 people redundant. Whilst it’s sad, it’s not exactly a surprise given how many of their stores are in central London and how empty central London is at the moment. To be fair to the senior team this is a train smash not of their making and I’m not exactly sure what they could be doing differently right now. Sales are still down 60% and there is no easy way to survive this without radically restructuring what you do, both at store and head office level.
The business certainly had its ups and downs during my nine years there but nothing comes close to comparing to this and it’s not as if this is some temporary set back. It’s hard to see the centres of some of our major cities returning to normal so it’s hard to see how Pret can avoid closing more stores.
The headline of this blog may seem contentious but there was a time when people commuted less and spent less on breakfast and lunch. This time may well come again which is a problem for all worker driven, central London food to go chains. As people get out of the habit of commuting and realise how much money they are saving and how much time there are getting back to spend with family and friends there will be a reluctance to return to the days of packed commuter trains and sauna like underground trains. who really wants to spend two hours of their life commuting to and from work on a daily basis?
On a personal level, I’m sad to see Pret in this situation. I had nine wonderful years there and I was really well looked after. I still know a number of people who work there so I have my fingers crossed that they will be able to extract themselves from this situation and I’m confident that they will have some innovative ideas as to how best respond to the situation
So, will this be the end of the road for Pret. I don’t think so.