Speciality tea shop concept Yumchaa is going “back to its roots” after disposing of two sites, its new chief executive Scott Priestnall has told MCA.
Priestnall, who took over from Josh Mordecai amid a management overhaul late last year, said the brand had drifted away from its original raison d’être, which he was looking to re-establish.
Back Brian Stockbridge, the former Glasgow Rangers finance director, has stepped away as a director, though retains shares.
Two sites – Tottenham Street and Camden Parkway – have been sold, leaving the brand with five tea shops.
Priestnall told MCA a focus now would be refurbishing the Soho site, which would become the model for further expansion.
Meanwhile operations, wholesale and online fulfilment has relocated to Camden Lock.
Priestnall, a former director at Luminar Leisure, said: “Since Yumchaa has been a PLC [on the Cyprus stock exchange] it’s diversified away from what it originally stood for - quality blended teas, customer experience, and being different from corporates on the high street. I think it lost some of that.
“In order to compete with the big corporate coffee chains, they were falling into a corporate mind-set. It lost its independent identity as an alternative to major coffee chains, of being something different and quirky.
“It was run too much as a café rather than a tea shop, and I think the business suffered because of that.”
Tea sommeliers have been brought in to advise in-store and run masterclasses, with Pilar Serrano, formerly of Moutn Everest Tea Co, and Whittards, coming in as head of tea.
Priestnall said there had been a significant increase in sales and footfall since he had come in, with sales at the online business doubling.
On changes at the business, Priestnall said: “I’ve come in and brought a new vibrant team, in the basis of taking Yumchaa back to its roots and what it stood for when it was created.
“We are refurbishing the shops, opening some new ones, changing our online presence, and marketing
“That’s all going to start with a refurbishment of Soho, which will have a complete overhaul. That will stand for everything that Yumchaa is about.
“It will have reusable materials, with customers at its heart. They will be able to come in and blend their own teas.”