It’s never good when a high profile business like Patisserie Valerie hits the buffers. Understanding exactly what happened may take some time to fully emerge, if it ever does, so the immediate question then is can anything be salvaged from the wreckage? Does the brand still have value, especially for would-be purchasers considering starting a conversation with the administrators?
It’s hard to tell how recent events have affected the cafe chain’s long-term reputation, especially among its core customers. Given they are on the older end of the age spectrum, analysis of social media traffic may be of limited usefulness – and it’s difficult to gauge how many have been reading the financial pages.
Seeing stores close, and there are 70 plus pulling down the shutters straightaway, may be the most damaging to public perceptions. But that’s the administrators’ call.
What I do know is that before its recent difficulties, Pat Val’s customers rated it as more passionate about quality, being authentic and upmarket than the average coffee shop brand, according to CGA’s BrandTrack consumer data. So something to work on.
The research suggests the main occasion the brand is visited is when people are out shopping. This weekend, or at least on a typical Saturday and Sunday prior to the collapse, Patisserie Valerie sites around the country would have enjoyed just short of 226,000 customer visits. If the brand isn’t saved that’s the prize for its main competitors like Costa, Caffe Nero and Pret a Manger to try and capture.
Those three brands, by the way, are the ones Pat Val’s customers are already more likely to use than the average consumer, according to BrandTrack – and overall there are almost five million of us who have visited a Pat Val in the last six months. Not insignificant.
Can a future buyer keep them onside or competitors coax away? The majority of those (73% to be precise) may only visit once or twice every six months, but there are a quarter who have been between three and five times, while a loyal minority of 3% have visited over 10 times. How that compares to other high street brands, you had better ask CGA, as it’s their dataset.
Significantly perhaps, four out of 10 visits to the chain come on Saturdays and Sundays, hence the big weekend trade up for grabs. Shopping and leisure appear fundamental to the brand.
The Patisserie Valerie consumer is older than the average high street consumer - 43% are over 55 compared to 28% for the average coffee shop brand - and slightly more likely to be female and affluent, with an average household income 13% above the norm. These consumers are also more likely to be classified as “Comfortable Sceptics” in CGA’s Consumer Segmentation rankings – not the most exciting but more likely to choose familiar places than other consumer segments, so prone to loyalty.
To attract and retain these consumers, brands must win the hearts of customers as Patisserie Valerie appears to have successfully done – with 44% of its customer base rating themselves ‘very satisfied’ with their visits, ranking the chain 16th of 72 brands covered across the market and first when it comes to the coffee and fast food sector, with a further 45% rating themselves ‘satisfied’.
Outranking the sector for consumer perceptions of choice of food, food quality, service and ambience/atmosphere, it is clear that the chain has retained, up until last autumn at least when the last research was done, an advocating and positive customer base.
The numbers suggest there is still value there, but for anyone seriously considering a rescue bid, spending some time in those stores still open would make sense too. You always need a reality check, even if that’s a bit late for the former management.