THE Warrens Bakery outlet on Belfast’s Royal Avenue is understood to have closed after less than a year trading, with the loss of all 10 jobs.
The Cornwall-founded company only opened in December in the former home of Asher’s Bakery.
At the time it said it planned to open “many” new stores in Northern Ireland.
But in the last week it appears to have pulled down the shutters in Belfast amid fears the company is struggling.
In July Warrens, the world’s oldest commercial pasty maker, which has more than 50 shops in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, made 66 staff redundant in the south west of England as part of a “restructuring exercise”.
No-one from the company would response yesterday to an Irish News request for a comment about its Belfast franchised operation.
But a worker in an adjacent business, who said he was a frequent customer of the Warrens store, said “the shop hasn’t been open for maybe a week or more”.
Warrens’ closure adds to more than a dozen empty units in Royal Avenue, once Belfast’s main shopping thoroughfare but which was described recently as “an embarrassment to retail in a European capital city”.
When it opened in December, bakery spokesman Carl Mortimer told the Irish News: “We’re really excited to be working with our franchise partner in Northern Ireland and delighted to open our first of what we hope will be many stores here.
“Northern Ireland represents a great opportunity for us and we look forward to bringing a little bit of Cornwall across the water.”
The new store initially created eight jobs, and it is thought at least two more staff were recruited.
The prime Royal Avenue site was vacated by Ashers last October after owner Daniel McArthur decided not to renew the lease, citing a lack of footfall as a direct result of the Primark fire the previous August.
Voted the UK’s top craft bakery in 2018, Warrens Bakery dates back to 1860 and describes itself as the world’s oldest pasty maker.
It is also recognised for its famous range of breads, freshly-made sandwiches, sweet and savoury treats, tasty breakfast goods and on-the-go snacks.
In 2017 the company said it was looking to open 1,000 new shops over the next decade, replicating the success of its rival Greggs.
But in a challenging sector, where raw materials, transport and other costs have risen significantly, the bakery has struggled.
Its results for this year to June 30 have not yet been filed.
But in its previous trading year Warrens increased its sales to more than £17 million but saw losses widen from £31,200 to £915,400.
By Gary McDonald
Source: Irish News