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Tue 28th Jul 2020 - Update: Corbin & King and Greggs report on trading since re-opening
Jeremy King – we have traded above what we expected: Corbin & King co-founder Jeremy King has told customers that trading has been better than expected since re-opening. In a newsletter, he stated: “I get asked a lot whether we can make it work at our current occupancy. The truth is that over these three weeks we have traded above what we expected – but at the same time varying between 50-70% of last year. Very encouraging but clearly we need to go beyond these levels to achieve any sustained significant profitability and try to pay off all those rent arrears and other accrued debts! Landlords have been generally supportive but it only goes so far and I have one who refuses to concede a single penny and is relentless in his pursuit of full rents even though covered by insurance. One thing for certain is that this pandemic has brought out both the best and worst in people. The Wolseley has surprised many with its apparent rapid return to normality and whist it might be easier to find a breakfast table than before I is surprisingly well-attended in the absence of business guests. With all the restaurants it is worth looking out for changes though which revolve around greater accessibility and even more enhanced value. Meanwhile Colbert slipped back into its ‘terrace & Rosé driven’ comparative languor as though nothing had happened and whilst Zédel was always potentially a concern because of the sheer size and need for so many guests it is gaining momentum. We decided against opening at lunch other than at the weekend and it is now really lively and buzzing aided and abetted by the lifting of the ban on live music a fantastic energy prevails both in the bars and brasserie. The toughest decision was whether to open Fischer’s or Soutine and in the end we went for the more established Fischer’s. Although the trading has been excellent we kept thinking that maybe we could have plumped for Soutine too – what with the Congestion Charge factor. So, with gratifying local pressure exerted, we have opened Soutine after all and have been rewarded by a wonderful response from the denizens of St John’s Wood and beyond. It just remains for The Delaunay to join the party but we do need to ascertain some life in Aldwych first. But there is another reopening on the horizon – one that seems to have not only pleasantly surprised the residents of Islington but has also caught their imagination. After last Summer’s closure Bellanger was due to be sold but two deals fell through pre-lockdown so what with more workers keen to stay home we have been able to ‘scratch an itch’ that has bothered us since we closed the doors. Were we too precipitous in closing and should we have tried changing the offer and having another go? Well that question has now been asked by way of a survey of the database and some 4,000 local customers have responded with a resounding ‘Yes!’. The new version is best described as more akin to Zédel in terms of menu and price. Whilst it will remain familiar to our old regulars the décor will take a new turn and the overall feeling will be one of cheaper prices, more fun, and greater casualness – but all in the Corbin & King style. We are looking forward to the challenge and aim to open 14 August under the careful control of our popular previous General Manager – Jo Cromwell – Islington born and bred.”

Greggs – sales have hit 72% of 2019 levels: Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside has reported sales have reached 72% of 2019 levels in the most recent week. He said: “Company-managed shops have seen sales develop since reopening, and reached 72% of 2019 levels in the most recent week to 25 July 2020. Whilst these are early days, Greggs is already showing that the variety and geographical reach of our shop estate, combined with the broad appeal of the brand, which is not materially dependent on office-based workers, means we are less impacted by social distancing than many. The majority of our shops are located in towns and suburbs, or catchments that are generally accessed by car. However, we still expect sales to remain below normal for as long as social distancing is required. At this point I must give credit to the amazing team of people in our business who have risen to the enormous challenges created by this crisis both in supporting the wider community and working together to redesign our operation to work safely under these new conditions. Adversity has brought out the best in us and we can be proud of our achievements as together we rebuild the business from here. We are unable to predict how long social distancing will be required but we remain confident of our potential for growth once this constraint is removed. Our strategy for growth is based on shop expansion, the roll out of new digital channels and day-part development. All of these remain relevant in a post-covid world but we have adapted our plans in light of social distancing. Digital channels, in the form of ‘click and collect’ and delivery, which allow customers to order and pay in advance can help us serve additional customers in a safe and effective manner during social distancing. We are therefore planning to roll both services out nationwide in the months ahead. Those digital-only shops that formed part of our reopening programme are now being reviewed with a view to transitioning to combined walk-in and digital services that can still operate within our social distancing procedures. Whilst customer footfall remains below normal we have adapted our plans to develop later evening trading to focus on those stores offering delivery and ‘click and collect’. We have also continued to make good progress with the development of our Greggs Rewards digital app, which will combine multichannel access and our loyalty programme in one place. We retain a strong pipeline of new shop opportunities and continue to see the potential for Greggs to grow its estate, but have temporarily slowed our new shop opening programme whilst we assess the impact of social distancing on trading levels. In addition, we have brought forward a number of planned closures of shops that have become unviable more quickly as a result of current conditions. In the first half of 2020 we opened 20 new shops (including seven franchised units) and closed 45 shops, giving a total estate of 2,025 shops (of which 307 are franchise units) as at 27 June 2020. Over the year as a whole we now expect to open c.60 shops and close c.50. The significant programme of investment in our supply chain has proved particularly valuable in recent weeks, with our manufacturing sites better able to flex production to demand. We intend to complete the transformation of our manufacturing operations this year, whilst slowing down the remaining activity designed to increase logistics capacity, reflecting the temporary slowdown of our shop opening plans. In addition, we have continued with the investment in our new robotic frozen logistics facility in the north east, which will significantly improve logistics efficiency and reduce third-party costs when it comes into operation in the second quarter of 2021.”

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