The shift away from office work poses big questions for companies like Greggs that rely on city life


Sausage wraps specialist Greggs reports that big-city sales have lagged behind the rest of its retail empire as it adjusts with other companies to handle the shift away from the five-day office work week.

Similar food retail sales at 1,831 UK bakeries are up 27 per cent in the first 19 weeks of the year compared to the same period in 2021 thanks to the full lifting of trade restrictions.

The series’ bestseller list included “Hot Dishes and Snacks”, where new products such as “Chicken Goojun and Potato Wedges” were very popular. Staples such as sausage rolls and steak bowls, in both vegetarian and meat forms, remain top consumer choices, even as the company warned that “market-wide cost pressures” would hurt its profits and spending ability.

Griggs said he hopes its revenue growth will return to normal “compared to stronger trading periods in 2021”. The chain is bullish on sales at transportation hubs such as train stations and bus stations, which have seen a “significant increase” thanks to day trips, public holidays and more revenue from office work.

But the chiefs added that “sales levels in major cities and at office locations still lag behind the rest of the property,” indicating that passengers were taking fewer business trips than they were before the pandemic.

The company’s strategy is to open new stores in busy locations such as retail parks and airports in Birmingham and Liverpool.

Susanna Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the pastry vendor “continues to struggle with the work-from-home trend, with department store sales still immature compared to other locations in its network.”

“But Greggs is already undergoing a reorganization of his store’s footprint and has proven to be adept at refocusing where demand is higher,” she added.

The baker is one of many companies nationwide that are struggling to move away from the five-day office work week as the norm for all workers. Many, like the lunchtime favorite, sushi chain Itsu or Pret a Manger, are permanently closing unprofitable branches in prime locations in the city and prioritizing new locations outside of London.

The implications are clear: According to Deloitte, there are several clear trends emerging from the pandemic. We spend more on groceries and less on food; We spend more time at home; We buy new clothes often; We use public transportation less and less. Meanwhile, the Royal Economic Society has warned that 77,000 retail and hospitality jobs could be lost and £3 billion in spending could be lost as workers work more than at home.

And with the impact of the pandemic, there are more far-reaching changes ahead in the way we view our work lives – and how we balance them with our personal and leisure lives.

Companies have tried to introduce “summer hours” for the warmer months of the year, allowing employees to miss work early or skip work on Fridays altogether to enjoy the good weather.

Last week, the Big Four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) announced that it would lay off workers at lunchtime starting in late June. Bean counter KPMG offered a similar scheme last year, while UK food giant Kellogg’s has had summer hours for 19 years.

Similarly, US investment bank Goldman Sachs has launched a new “flexible vacation” program, which allows senior employees to take as many days off as they wish to “rest and recharge.”

In addition, there is a possibility that the four-day working week is gaining momentum. A formal pilot program will be held across the UK next month, with 60 companies participating and giving 3,000 employees the chance to work one day less per week without a drop in wages. Companies that have tried this in the past have reported higher productivity, meetings were more efficient, employees were happier and took fewer days off.

What if companies do not keep up with the times? There are growing warnings that workers will look elsewhere for more flexible working arrangements. A study published by LinkedIn this week found that more than half of women surveyed are now considering leaving or already leaving a job, such as one that doesn’t offer flexible hours.

No matter how Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg choose to describe the growing desire and need to break away from the five-day office workweek, big companies like Greggs, dependent on in-city commerce, are preparing for change in front of me. It’s only a matter of time before we all have to change with them.


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