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Pret sees uneven sales recovery in the UK

Coffee and food-to-go chain sees broad UK sales recovery, but suburban stores still outperform those in its former city centre heartlands

Pret's neighbourhood locations are still outperforming its traditional city centre heartlands | Photo credit: Pret A Manger 



Pret stores in London’s West End and suburban locations across the UK were trading at higher volumes in mid-November 2021 than in January 2020, according to Bloomberg’s Pret Index.
 
The index, which tracks Pret’s sales volumes as indicator of wider economic health, shows the coffee chain’s UK recovery is uneven, with suburban stores trading at one third higher volumes than before the pandemic. Meanwhile, sales at airport locations and London’s financial districts remain down by around a quarter.
 
Elsewhere, Pret’s circa-30 store businesses in Paris and Hong Kong are trading at around 85% and 80% of pre-pandemic levels respectively.
 
The recovery in Pret’s flagship UK market, where the coffee chain operates most stores around the world, is a welcome indication of a strengthening hospitality segment and wider econimic recovery.

However, Pret’s performance in the US, where it operates around 80 stores, still lags behind its native UK market, with the chain’s Wall Street stores in New York still trading at around half of pre-pandemic levels.
 
Nevertheless, indicating the US branded coffee chain market has regained significant momentum, in November 2021 market leader Starbucks reported 'record' fourth quarter trading and full-year revenues exceeding 2019 levels. 
 
Pret scrambled to diversify its heavily office worker-focused business model in the wake of the pandemic, which saw sales at the coffee and food-to-go chain plummet three-quarters.
 
The JAB Holdings-owned business introduced an at-home coffee range, launched a coffee subscription at US stores and explored beyond its traditional city centre locations to trial supermarket and petrol station concession stores, more neighbourhood locations and even a self-serve coffee brand.
 
Founded in London in 1986, Pret operates nearly 600 shops in 11 countries. The chain was acquired by Luxembourg-based JAB Holdings, which also controls Peet’s Coffee and Panera Bread, for around $2bn in May 2018.

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