Charlotte Street Partners



Suburban surge

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner

23 September 2021

Good morning,

The electric plug, the fire hydrant, and the suburb: these are things Britain does well. Our suburbs in particular are a middle way between the tract-housing sprawl of the US and the continent’s jumble of breeze-block mega-schemes and gated compounds.

Suburbia, however, has found a far greater cheerleader than me: Pret a Manger.

Despite a difficult pandemic for office worker-reliant coffee shops, Pret has announced ambitious plans to establish over 200 new UK and Irish stores in the next two years. The focus of this expansion will be suburbs, regional cities, and travel hubs. Co-working start-up Patch has announced similar plans to establish shared offices in the high streets of suburbs and small towns.

These businesses are literally following their customers. As the need to work in the office has diminished, so too has the appeal of city centres. As the need for a pleasant and spacious home to work in has grown, so too has the appeal of suburbs and small towns. The result is that house prices are growing faster in cities’ suburbs than in their centres. With the UK government mulling plans to strengthen employees’ ability to work at home, this trend could continue in a post-Covid world.

This is more than a market trend. Even pre-Covid, trendy newcomers were enlivening the character of suburbs like Bristol’s Montpelier and Manchester’s Chorlton. Covid is accelerating the trend. On the other hand, take a London suburb like Queensbury. Transformed by international migration in the late-20th century, it could yet revert to Pooterish type.

Here’s where Pret comes back in. Is the outward march of ubiquitous high street brands a negative change to our suburbs? I’d argue not.

Home working has ensured that the decline in suburban retail has been less pronounced than for city centres. If big chains spreading out their stalls reverses the decline of many suburban or small-town high streets, all the better.

If more home workers mean more people around to boost the commercial and civic life of an area, all the better too. Covid could be making the suburban life more communal and characterful than the often-alienating experience of city living. Pret’s move, just like house prices, shows the growing appeal of such a lifestyle.

Britain’s suburbs could be rediscovering something of their character and civic life. Pret may just be the beginning.


In an address to the United Nations’ general assembly, Boris Johnson has referred to the forthcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow as a “turning point for humanity”. The prime minister called on all countries to adopt a series measures to curb climate change, including collectively reaching net zero by the middle of this century.

Before attending the UN in New York, Johnson told journalists in Washington DC that “some of our dearest friends” should “donnez-moi un break”. Johnson was referring to France’s response to the submarine pact between the UK, the US, and Australia. President Macron had already withdrawn his ambassadors to Washington and Canberra.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has outlined his vision for his party in a 14,000-word pamphlet for the Fabian Society: a centre-left think tank. Starmer marks a shift to the centre ground with an emphasis on hard work, contributing to society, and partnership between the public and private sectors.

Business and economy

1.5m Britons face a switch to a more expensive energy supplier after recent company failures, which included the collapse of Avro Energy and Green yesterday. Difficulties in the energy sector have been sparked by, among other things, a sixfold increase in wholesale gas prices.

The US Federal Reserve is expected to announce a rise in interest rates. As the central banking system seeks to control its $120bn annual bon-buying programme, its chairman, Jerome Powell, called for a “gradual tapering process”. (£)

One in eight UK jobs is now in tech. The sector is experiencing a hiring boom as the number of advertised tech jobs Is 42% higher than in 2019. The figures have been published as part of an Adzuna study for the Digital Economy Council.

Columns of note

The UK’s system of residential university education began as a post-war social experiment. Educators believed students would lead fuller lives by virtue of living away from home. Yet, as confidence in this mission has faltered, British students have been left in often-alienating halls of residence which lack any clear purpose. In The Times, James Marriott argues universities need to rediscover this mission or reconsider residential education entirely. (£)

Boris Johnson is the first Conservative leader in a long while not to face a meaningful electoral threat on the right. While claiming parts of the former Brexit party’s agenda may help him minimise this threat, apathy could prove a bigger threat than a right-wing challenger. In the Financial Times, Robert Shrimsley claims economic stability is key to winning over potentially apathetic voters. He argues that, so long as he has political space to do so, Johnson should take tough decisions now to improve economic stability. (£)

Cartoon source: The Times


What happened yesterday?

Stocks were boosted across the globe as major Chinese property developer Evergrande announced it had struck a deal on domestic debt repayment.

On Wall Street, the S&P500 closed up one per cent while the Nasdaq Composite also rose 0.8%. In Europe, the Stoxx600 index rose one per cent while London’s FTSE100 closed up 1.5%.

The pound was trading at 1.16 Euros and at 1.36 dollars.

In company news:

The London Stock Exchange is to shut down loss-making derivative exchange CurveGlobal markets five years after it launched.

Netflix has secured the rights to the works of Roald Dahl, famed for his children’s books and short stories.

What’s happening today?

Final results

Dfs Furn         


Source: Financial Times

did you know

You cannot fold a sheet of A4 paper in half more than seven times.


Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions

Women and equalities (including topical question)

Prime minister’s question time

Urgent question
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will make a statement on what action she will be taking in response to the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services on the police response to violence against women and girls

Ministerial statement
Injunction to protect the M25

The Compensation (London Capital & Finance PLC and Fraud Compensation Fund) Bill: Remaining Stages
The Subsidy Control Bill: Second Reading

Motion to appoint an external member of the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body

House of Lords 

The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on 11 October.

Scottish parliament 

General questions

First minister’s questions

Portfolio questions
Rural affairs and islands

Ministerial statement

Decarbonising Scotland’s transport

Stage 1 debate and financial resolution
Carers Allowance Supplement (Scotland) Bill

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