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John Ryan

Greggs Treats London Flagship Opening Like a Movie Premiere

Sausage rolls and glasses of fizz served to cordoned-off line of 200 people

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GREGGS IS PROBABLY an unfamiliar name to those living on the other side of The Pond, so in case you don’t know about it, this is a take-out dining (for the most part) retailer specializing in baked products like steak slices, sausage rolls, cakes and suchlike.

Its stores can be found the length and breadth of the U.K. and it is loved by those in search of a bargain snack. It also happens to have something of a cult following. But this week it did something completely different with the opening of a store at 1 Leicester Square, in London.

Again, for the sake of clarity, Leicester Square is a little like the walk of fame in Tinseltown, the place where all the big movies get their first showing, prior to more general distribution. As such, it is not necessarily the sort of place that you might associate with Greggs. But as the home of flagships from Lego to M&M’s, it is a major tourist destination with something of a Times Square-like feel to it.

With this in mind, Greggs treated the opening of this store just like a movie premiere. There was a cordoned-off line and the first 200 who joined the queue were treated to a glass of fizz and a sausage roll … for free. And, in spite of opening day being the hottest on record in the U.K. capital (around 100F), nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the faithful.

Now it’s all over and what we are left with is a Greggs branch in the centre of London’s most raked over tourist destination. Greggs will benefit from having gained a flagship (although it has also benefitted from opening a large, brightly-colored cafe-in-shop in Primark’s global flagship in Birmingham), shoppers in the area will smile at a high street stalwart taking up residence in such a high-profile location and tourists might even give it a go.

Going against the norm has always been what the best retail should be about and this looks like a pretty good example.

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John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.

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