Why don’t you come on over, Valerie?

NR speaks to the CEO of Patisserie Valerie, one of Britain’s most recognised bakery chains, as it prepares to open its first outlet in Northern Ireland

 

Patisserie Valerie, a British bakery chain with Belgian roots, has seen formidable growth in the last ten years.

Its first Northern Irish outlet could open as soon as July, adding to its 160 existing outlets, and its invasion plans don’t stop at the border.

The man behind the franchise’s explosion is chief executive Paul May, who in 1995 was the ignition for the wildfire-like spread of the Money Shop (formerly Cash a Cheque).

With a city-centre site already agreed (currently now just in ‘legals’, according to Paul), Patisserie Valerie could be on every one’s lips before long.

Paul May

Paul May

Speaking to Neighbourhood Retailer, Paul said the proposed site would bring a total of 22 jobs at the outset, and would serve as a hub as they rolled out further stores.

“Everywhere I go I’m always extremely surprised at how well-known Patisserie Vallerie is,” he said.

“We carried out research into the expansion, and it came back saying that Ireland north and south should be our next targets.”

Paul explained the firm has been very active on social media, which has helped familiarise people with the brand.

Speaking about the Belfast store, Paul explained it would be housed just off Donegal Square West.

Along with a sit-in patisserie, the store will also contain an in-house bakery to prepare the treats, tarts and confections, with a six or seven-strong bakery team.

That team will eventually become the central bakery as other outlets appear.

“I think we’ll do very well in Northern Ireland,” Paul said. “We also do well among tourists, so the island’s tourism draw is very attractive for the business also. From the information we have, and from existing estimates, we’re very confident  about how it will perform.”

While Paul’s optimism is based on expert data, Neighbourhood Retailer wanted to know if recent events in Stormont (or lack thereof) had cast any doubts.

“I’ve been in the retail industry before, and brought over the Money Shop in the 1990s, and back then there was much more instability than there is now,” he said.

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A typical Patisserie Valerie store

“It’s an affordable treat, and people will want to sit down and have a nice treat, with a nice coffee, no matter what happens.

“We don’t see the instability affecting our business. Northern Ireland is a much better place to do business now than it ever has been before.”

Patisserie Valerie’s NI debut comes within months of GB bakery giant Greggs taking its first step across the Irish sea.

But Paul is adamant the timing is purely coincidental.

“It played no part in the decision making whatsoever,” Paul said. “There is nobody of our scale and size, so competition will come down to independents, but we feel there is room for us to do very well in NI.”

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