Bakery chain Percy Ingle has been an East London staple for decades, with branches from Holloway to Brentwood and Waltham Cross to Woolwich. Coronavirus has finished it off.
Percy Ingle Factbox
• Percy's parents Joseph and Kathleen owned a bakery in Hackney in 1910
• They were German, and changed their surname after WW1 from Engel to Ingle
• Percy started out with one shop in Clarence Road in Clapton in 1954
• In 2000 Percy's son Derek took over, followed in 2010 by sons Paul and Michael
• By the 1990s the family business had grown to 40 bakeries, and in 2020 to 49
In Bow the Percy Ingle bakery is at 633 Roman Road, which is the corner shop at the far eastern end of the market. In the 1970s this used to be Scotts Bakeries, but Percy was very much the entrepreneur and snapped it up for his growing portfolio.
• Percy Ingle shopfronts are green with orange lettering - an unmissable combination
• A number of styles have been employed over the years, with little rationalisation
• The Upton Park branch still isn't green
• Last year a consultancy was brought in to update the brand
• They dropped the Percy and decided to rename the chain Ingles
In Bow the shopfront was rebranded earlier this year. Out went the orange lettering and in came a subtly darker green. Out went the Percy and in came a newly-shortened name in capital letters. Out went the graphic of a teapot and in came a line drawing of a baker with a hot loaf.
• Percy Ingle bakeries closed their doors on Friday 27th March
• That was the last time the firm's Twitter account tweeted anything
• Percy Ingle bakeries reopened on Wednesday 13th May
• That was the last time the firm's Facebook and Instagram accounts posted anything
On 22nd June the local press reported that Percy Ingle would be closing all its branches before the end of the financial year. On 25th June a spokesperson blamed high rents, high labour costs, a competitive market and the impossibility of making any return on recent investments. The recent rebrand also turns out to have been a pointless waste of money. In its most recent published accounts, the company made an annual loss of £165,000 on a turnover of £13.1m.
No stores closed immediately. Bow's Percy Ingle bakery was still serving customers last week. However yesterday I walked past and the shop was shuttered. Twitter users confirm that stores in Canning Town, Chingford, Brentwood (and elsewhere) have also closed in the last few days. The website has yet to reflect these closures.
Bow's shoppers won't go without baked goods. A Greggs exists almost directly opposite, which may actually have been part of the problem. Gone are the days when every shopping parade needed its own bakery and high streets could support several. Supermarkets started the squeeze, and vegan sausage rolls and coffee shops have finished them off.
Percy Ingle specialities
• Bread: Large White Bloomer, Tiger Loaf, Coburg, Multiseed Cob, Ancient Grain Sourdough
• Hot Savoury: Cheese & Onion Lattice, Steak Bite, Vegetable Pasty, Bacon & Cheese Wrap
• Snacks: Bacon Roll, Cheese & Tomato Croissant, Roasted Vegetable Foccacia
• Filled Rolls: Egg & Tomato, Tuna Mayo, Corned Beef, Mortadella Ham & Cream Cheese
• Sweet Treats: Apple & Sultana Strudel, Mini Flake Fancies, Tottenham Cake, Danish Ring
• Cream Cakes: Apple & Blackcurrant Danish, Cream Swiss Finger, Custard Cream Doughnut
• Also: Black Forest Cupcake, Mandarin Orange Gateaux, Custard Danish, Gingerbread Man
This mass closure provides a rare opportunity to compare shop rental costs across East London. Percy Ingle have handed their property portfolio to Strettons to dispose of, so I've scoured their listings to dig out the going price for two-thirds of the vacated stores.
ex-Percy Ingle stores, annual rental
£12,000 Lea Bridge Road
£14,360 Canning Town
£14,500 Leytonstone High Rd
£16,500 Bakers Arms
£16,750 Harold Hill
£17,000 Upton Park
£18,000 Wood Street
£19,500 Collier Row
Plaistow's bakery shell is by far the cheapest, with Leyton and Leytonstone also making a strong showing in the affordability stakes. My local Roman Road store is up for grabs at £22K per annum (plus business rates of £16,750, should you be thinking of making a go of it). Hackney's Broadway Market store is already 'Under Offer'. The most expensive Ingles are in busy high streets, with the very highest rent for a unit in the Stratford Centre.
Percy Ingle also owned at least two stores outright. The store on Well Street in Homerton is now on the market for £250,000, while the East Ham bakery has a whopping £695,000 pricetag. These sales may help the dying business to get some of its money back, but its total rental costs previously exceeded £1m a year which must have been hard to claw back by selling loaves and cakes.
It's all too easy to get lost in nostalgia for iced buns and to mourn a high street store you no longer frequent. Many folk get all their baked goods from the supermarket these days, or prefer to pick up a mass produced treat alongside their coffee rather than bringing home a nice bit of cake to have with their tea. But the sudden loss of an entire bakery chain is a sad symptom of irreconcilable instability in the economy as all sorts of previously borderline businesses begin to go under. If you still have an affordable non-artisanal food option nearby best give it all the love you can muster.