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Pret a Manger closing but Shrewsbury town centre 'is bouncing back'

By Dominic Robertson | Shrewsbury | Business | Published:

Shrewsbury town centre will continue to bounce back despite the loss of Pret a Manger, a council leader has said.

Pret a Manger on Pride Hill in Shrewsbury

The sandwich and coffee chain announced yesterday that it is permanently closing its Shrewsbury branch, just two years after opening on Pride Hill.

It is one of 30 stores closing across the UK after footfall was hammered by the coronavirus lockdown, with at least 1,000 jobs thought to be at risk as a result.

Councillor Alan Mosley, leader of Shrewsbury Town Council, said the loss of the store would be a blow but that in general the town centre was back on the up.

"It is a great shame that another company is leaving Shrewsbury, particularly in a prominent site," Councillor Mosley said.

Inside the Shrewsbury branch of Pret

"However, the good news is that Shrewsbury is bouncing back generally and the news on footfall is relatively good and certainly a more vibrant atmosphere is developing in the town centre as we go forward."

Pret opened its only Shrewsbury branch in the former Bank clothing store next door to Lloyds Bank in April 2018.

The shop features ruins that are believed to have been a merchant’s townhouse.

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The site’s original building was partially demolished in the late 1600s when cottages were built within its shell.

In the 1900s, the remains of a wall were identified as being that of Bennett’s Hall and became known for a while as the ‘Old Mint’, as it was mistakenly identified as the site of Charles the First’s royal mint.

The monument wall is visible on the upper floor of the shop.

Sales down 74 per cent

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The company said recent UK sales have dived by almost three-quarters – 74 per cent – 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 in demand.

The company said it has faced “significant operating losses” following the outbreak, despite having reopened over 300 of its sites.

Pret will soon start consultations with staff as it pushes forward with plans to shut these 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.”

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