May 1, 2020 @ 12:29 by Steven Hugill
A North East bakery chain has shelved a store re-opening plan over customer crowding fears.
Greggs has pulled a scheduled consumer-facing trial in 20 shops across the Newcastle area.
The baker had intended to open stores on Monday, May 4 with retail volunteers serving smaller product ranges in shorter trading hours to test social distancing and safety measures ahead of a wider reopening programme.
However, bosses have now performed a U-turn, saying the “significant level of interest” in its plan poses a “risk that excessive numbers of customers” could inundate its shops.
Instead, the Newcastle-headquartered baker, which was founded on North East streets as an egg and yeast purveyor, will carry out trials behind closed doors.
In a message to staff, chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “It was never our intention to attract high levels of customers to these trial shops, and therefore we have decided to temporarily update our test plans and operate behind closed doors only.
“We will continue to review this as we undertake our initial tests and will invite walk-in customers into our shops only when we can be confident of doing so in the controlled manner we intended.”
Revealing its original reopening plan last week, the company said that if its 20-shop trial was successful, it would look to resume trading from around 700 stores – including 150 franchise outlets – from Monday, June 8.
Its full estate – which stands at more than 2000 shops – was planned to reopen by Wednesday, July 1, when the Government’s furlough support is scheduled to end.