Harris + Hoole, the controversial coffee shop chain backed by Tesco, is to close a raft of unprofitable London stores just a year after the supermarket giant championed the brand as the saviour of its big shops.
The high end café chain, in which Tesco holds a stake reported to be 49 per cent, is to imminently shut six struggling shops across the capital and Home Counties.
A source close to the situation claimed the costly nature of Harris + Hoole’s stores, which feature high-end décor and premium barista coffee machines, was to blame for the closures and questioned Tesco’s desire to grow the chain.
However, co-founder Nick Tolley countered: “Our working relationship with Tesco remains strong as ever.
“Like any business which has grown rapidly, some locations have performed better than others, so it makes sense for us to review those locations which have done less well, or where the lease is coming to an end.”
The shops closing include its stores in Walton-on-Thames and Hounslow as well as a pop-up concession in Tesco’s Highbury store and will leave the chain with 41 shops.
Harris + Hoole – founded by the Tolley family, who also run the Taylor Street coffee chain – has had to defend itself from critics claiming it misled customers into believing it was an independent business.
The move comes after Tesco heralded Harris + Hoole and fellow concessions Giraffe and Euphorium as the future of its ailing larger stores on opening a flagship in Watford last August.
Tesco continued to struggle and last month called time on boss Philip Clarke’s three-year reign in charge. He will be replaced by Unilever’s Dave Lewis in October.
The chain intends to have 16 high street shops and 32 stores in or alongside Tesco premises by the end of the year. It is also planning its first airport store at Stansted next year.
A Tesco spokeswoman said: “We continue to work successfully with Harris+Hoole. Feedback from customers in stores with Harris+Hoole coffee shops has been really positive and we look forward to more shops opening in the future.”