Greggs Sees Like-For-Like Sales Drop, But Claims It Was 'Resilient' In 2012

Greggs, the bakery business, has reported a 2.9% fall in like-for-like sales for its Christmas trading period.

The high street chain, well known for its campaign against the government's Pasty Tax last year, attempted to brush off the drop in like-for-like sales by saying the 2011 period had been particularly strong.

Chief executive Ken McMeikan - who is due to step down later this year as he departs for catering firm Brakes - said 2012 had seen a "resilient Christmas and New Year" trading performance given the tough comparison, adding that 2011's figures benefitted from Christmas Day and New Year's Day falling on Sundays.

"For the five week trading period ending 5 January 2013, total sales grew by 4.3%," he said in a statement on Wednesday. "During the Christmas period trading highlights included selling a record 8.5 million of our award winning shop-baked sweet mince pies, a 7% increase on last year."

'Bake at home' sales of Greggs-branded products through more than 750 Iceland stores performed well over the period, and Greggs remains bullish about its franchised shops, with 11 already open in motorway service stations across the UK and more planned to open in 2013.

However, taking the financial year as a whole - 52 weeks ending 29 December 2012 - while total sales grew by 4.8%, d like-for-like sales were down by 2.7%.

McMeikan also revealed more about Greggs' store location strategies, with 21 shops closed and another 121 opened in 2012, and another 118 shop refurbishments completed.

Interestingly, 48% of the new shop locations were opened away from high streets. Greggs expects to open 80-90 new shops, with around 30 closures, giving a net 50-60 new shops for the year.

"We expect that the tough trading environment will continue during 2013, with consumers remaining cautious and inflationary cost pressure on a number of key commodities," McMeikan said.

Company Watch business analyst Nick Hood told Huff Post UK he believed the chain's investment in its wholesaling and franchising channels is paying off and the store opening programme is delivering overall growth for the business.

"The management team are no doubt keeping a close eye on optimum size for the store portfolio to avoid an expensive restructuring of their bricks and mortar offering some time in the future," he said.