It’s a tale of modern times. As the Coronavirus has emptied out the city centre, some of the chains who made much of their income from lunch time visits by office workers have had to adapt their approach fast! Pret a Manger, arguably the flagship trader in this market, took quite a direct hit – but were in a small way they were lucky: they knew they had pretty much saturated coverage in the town centre so had already started opening up in more unusual places, and found the business worked there too.
An early example of a ‘suburban’ Pret was Wandsworth High Street. They also opened their surprisingly profitable Clapham Junction branch on St Johns Road not too long before the pandemic. While the town centre branches have really struggled and in many cases shut for good, their inner suburban branches have kept going quite happily and done a pretty brisk trade, through bored work-at-home residents looking for coffee, croissants and sandwiches – so much so that they have recently opened another large branch over on Clapham high street.
Wasabi, seller of takeaway sushi and bento, fall in to the same category of business. However they were maybe a little later to try out trade in the inner suburbs: their current London locations have a distinct City of London focus, with a slightly less dense coverage around the West End – and are not what you really want at a time when the town centre has lost trade to the suburbs!
Which is why it’s maybe not surprising that they’re now planning to open a branch on St Johns Hill, taking over half of what is currently Moss Bros when their lease expires. It’s good to see Wasabi’s vote of confidence in Clapham Junction, and we suspect they will do well here.
Though it’s also a sad day for Moss Bros, whose headquarters is actually in the offices above the station. They have had a really, really hard time over the last year, including a CVA (essentially an alternative to going in to administration, where they ask their landlords for rent reductions and seek to shake off some of their debt). Their current owner was particularly unlucky in buying them just two weeks before lockdown – which pretty much removed all their business overnight. We’re not sure if their Clapham Junction presence is coming to an end, or whether they’re shrinking to just occupy the other half of what was a double unit (though the store is no longer listed by Moss Bros on their website, which suggests the former).