May 27, 2020 @ 15:40 by Steven Hugill
North East-headquartered baker Greggs has revealed plans to reopen hundreds of stores.
The company says around 800 outlets are primed to resume trading on June 18.
The update comes after the pie, pasty and sausage roll maker, which was founded on Newcastle’s streets, carried out a number of shop trials during the coronavirus lockdown.
Bosses say stores are being fitted with social distancing measures to ensure staff and customer safety, with workers also set to receive extra wellbeing and operational training.
However, they say the uncertain environment means shops will carry a reduced range and be overseen by smaller teams, with sales expected to be “significantly lower than normal for some time”.
The Newcastle-based company has also deferred new store openings and says new product development will be restricted, so officials can “more clearly see how sales settle in this new world of social distancing”.
Roger Whiteside, chief executive, said: “Thanks to our amazing trial shop volunteers and shop opening teams, we are confident of being able to open with social distancing protection (and) our plan is proceeding with the first large scale wave of around 800 shops.
“Meanwhile, to extend our learning we are increasing our trading hours in the existing trial shops and will be opening a few more with volunteers starting next week.
“While we can look forward to the economy starting to improve and our stores being open again, we must also accept social distancing will limit what we can do and impact how customers behave.
“As a result, we will not be offering our full range and will not need our full team working in our shops, supply chain and Greggs House (head office).”
The baker previously confirmed it had received £150 million backing to navigate coronavirus’ impact via the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility and is also using the Government’s furlough scheme.
With the company “one of the few employers to top up the furlough scheme to pay full contract hours”, Roger revealed its teams will remain on regular pay until at least July 1, adding it will continue using Downing Street support to aid its progress.
He said: “Sales are needed to cover the wages and salaries that are the largest cost in our business and so while sales are low, we must continue to access support from the Government.
“This helps to pay for our employment costs and allows us to keep jobs open using the furlough arrangements while we do not need everyone back to work.
“We await news from the Chancellor regarding the level of support available from the Government once the current furlough scheme ends.”