Greggs beats profit forecasts following 'very strong' Christmas sales

Like-for-like sales increased 8.2 per cent in the five weeks to 3 January

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The Independent Online

Greggs has beaten profit forecasts for the second time in a month following "very strong" Christmas sales - sending shares up more than 8 per cent to a record high.

The bakery chain, which has 1,650 stores, said like-for-like sales increased 8.2 per cent in the five weeks to 3 January as the group focused on food-on-the-go menus such as sandwiches, sausage rolls and fresh coffee.

The firm, which refurbished 213 stores in the last year, also said new products such as fresh soups have been well received, while its Balanced Choice range of items under 400 calories continues to sell well.

Chief executive Roger Whiteside has increased the focus on the food-on-the-go market, which accounts for 75 per cent of customer visits.

Greggs said since it last updated the market in mid-December it has enjoyed a strong finish to the year and expected to beat current forecasts.

It said same store sales for the 53 weeks to January 3 were up 4.5 per cent, with total sales up 5.5 per cent.

Mr Whiteside said: "Since our last update on December 15 we have experienced a very strong level of trade through the Christmas and New Year period.

"Customers have clearly responded to the improvements in our product offer and service, designed to meet the needs of the food-on-the-go consumer, during this busy period."

Mr Whiteside added: "This has been a year in which we have made good progress with our strategic plans and seen a welcome improvement in financial performance."

"We remain clear on our priorities and are confident that we can make further progress in the year ahead."

Greggs said the outlook for the first half of 2015 looked "encouraging with low input cost inflation expected along with an improved outlook for disposable incomes."

Additional reporting by Press Association