Retail bakery chain Cooks, formerly Three Cooks, has reduced its estate to 180

stores as it focuses on boosting profitability. The chain, which is the UK’s third-largest retail bakery chain after Greggs and Lyndale Foods, has closed around 60 stores over the last 18 months. It is refurbishing those stores which it believes have a long-term future and closing those that don’t, chairman Geoff Peppiatt told British Baker.

The company will also close any more stores that become unviable – perhaps reducing the estate to 160 stores – but will also open new stores as suitable opportunities arise, he said.

Smaller traditional stores, which were not increasing their turnover, could not survive as costs – such as energy, rents and rates – rose, he said. Energy prices alone had risen 50% over the last year.

“The strategy is that if we have an unprofitable store we will close it,” said Peppiatt. “We only have one priority – to improve the quality of the estate, by closing, opening or refitting stores. I would much rather protect the jobs of 1,200 staff than continue to fund loss-making stores.”

However, the company is refitting and refurbishing those stores which it does believe to be viable, he said, and is rolling out the new “Cooks” fascia. Some 20 stores have been refurbished over the last year, and the project is set to take around another 18 months to complete.

The store refit project is often delayed by local authority planning issues, he added. You may want to open the new store in August and have to wait until October,” he said.

But he is confident about the future of the company and is investing “millions” in the refit project, and in rolling out new Electronic Point of Sale tills and internet systems to stores, he added.