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Pret's Irish expansion uncertain as it closes 30 coffee shops in UK

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Hard times: A customer takes a break in a Pret a Manger outlet in central London yesterday. Photo: PA

Hard times: A customer takes a break in a Pret a Manger outlet in central London yesterday. Photo: PA

PA

Hard times: A customer takes a break in a Pret a Manger outlet in central London yesterday. Photo: PA

Well-known sandwich chain Pret a Manger has refused to comment on whether it still plans to enter the Irish market after it said it was permanently shutting a number of coffee shops across the UK.

It was reported in 2019 the company was set to open in here early this year, with the group understood to have identified two locations, including one in Dublin city centre.

Yesterday the company said it is to permanently shut 30 of its stores in the UK after footfall was hammered by the coronavirus lockdown.

It is understood that at least 1,000 jobs are at risk at the chain as part of the restructuring plan.

The company said recent sales have dived by almost three-quarters - 74pc - compared with the same period last year.

Sales and footfall have been hit hard by a heavy reduction in the number of people travelling into city centres for office work, with more people working from home due to the pandemic.

Pret said it will also reduce the number of staff working across its remaining UK stores to reflect the slump.

The company said it has faced "significant operating losses" following the outbreak, despite having reopened more than 300 of its sites.

Pret will soon start consultations with staff as it pushes forward with plans to shut the 30 sites in the second half of the year.

Its restructuring plan will see it launch a sale process for the lease of Pret's main support office near London Victoria station.

Discussions are also ongoing with landlords across its estate to develop a more "sustainable" model after external advisers were hired.

Chief executive Pano Christou said: "It's a sad day for the whole Pret family, and I'm devastated that we will be losing so many employees.

"These decisions are not a reflection on anyone's work or commitment, but we must make these changes to succeed in the new retail environment.

"Our goal now is to bring Pret to more people, through different channels and in new ways, so that we can continue to provide great jobs and opportunities to our remaining employees."

Pret a Manger, which was founded in 1986,is under private equity ownership, having been purchased by Krispy Kreme owner JAB Holdings for £1.5bn (€1.6bn) in 2018.

In recent years it has placed extra focus on its vegan offering in response to changing consumer preferences.

Additional reporting: PA

Irish Independent