By Barbara Kollmeyer
Long live the lunchtime sandwich.
That beloved U.K. staple, trampled under the weight of the pandemic and office workers relocating to their living rooms, appears to be making a recovery. That’s based on the Office for National Statistic’s new data that tracks Pret a Manger sales.
The sandwich and lunch chain, owned by Krispy Kreme and Kenco Coffee parent JAB Holdings, operates about 400 stores around the U.S.
The index shows weekly till transactions as a proportion of the weekly level in the first four weeks of 2020. The ONS’s new chart shows sandwich sales marching higher, with Yorkshire leading, but London sales still only 82% of that weekly average level.
“Transactions at Pret stores across the country have increased from their total transaction levels in April 2021. The area with the largest relative increase is Yorkshire, seeing a 77 percentage point increase from the week ending 1 April 2021 to the week ending 7 October 2021,” said the Office for National Statistics .
“Town centre sandwich shops had their stuffing knocked out of them during the pandemic, when daily customers disappeared overnight as entire workforces shifted to home. But it seems our love of the lunchtime snack is back, with transactions beating pre-pandemic levels in some areas,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, in a note to clients.
“After so many months with little option but to rustle up meals at home, it’s clear consumers now have a much stronger appetite for eating out than before the pandemic,” she said. “But with labour shortages hitting restaurants, cafes and sandwich bars, it’s not clear if the industry will be able to keep up with our insatiable demand for dining out.”
As for U.K markets on Thursday, the pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +0.7346% continued to rise, up 0.3% to $1.370 , with that strength weighing on the FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -1.64% , which has a hefty represenation of international companies that derive revenue from overseas. The FTSE rose 0.9% to 7,206, underperforming other European stocks.
Natural resource stocks led the gains with big mining and oil names such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP up more than 2% each. Rio Tinto /zigman2/quotes/208934945/delayed UK:RIO +1.05% /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO +0.80% , Glencore /zigman2/quotes/201400686/delayed UK:GLEN +1.08% , BHP /zigman2/quotes/206213719/delayed UK:BHP +0.61% /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP +0.10% and Anglo American /zigman2/quotes/201381512/delayed UK:AAL +2.71% climbed more than 3% each. That’s as oil prices and industrial metals climbed.
The U.K. fuel crisis continued to worsen as gas shipper CNG Group sent a letter to more than dozen utility companies telling them it can’t keep supplying them with gas, according to a report in the Financial Times . The high cost of wholesale gas prices has led to the collapse of several energy suppliers in the U.K.
Glencore /zigman2/quotes/201400686/delayed UK:GLEN +1.08% , a minority shareholder in CNG and key supplier, said in a statement that it has “provided substantial financial support to CNG through challenging market conditions including a series of gas supplier failures. Glencore has continued to support CNG and is engaging with the Regulator in the hope that a solution can be found.”
Glencore added that domestic consumers are not affected by the issue. CNG Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.