Chief executive Ken McMeikan said its existing 11 units in the format – which features artisan bread and pizza made on-site – saw sales growth of double digits over the Christmas period.
He made the admission after revealing the company had suffered in Christmas trading – with a 2.9% decline in like-for-like sales (LFLs) for its 5 weeks ending January 5, 2013.
The company is scaling back on new store openings in the current year and instead will focus on refurbishment its current estate, of which the Greggs The Baker conversions will be a large part.
The new stores have 75 new products on offer, including chocolate and orange scones, cheesecake and giant cupcakes and have a more 'artisan'-styling for the shop, including blackboards, wicker and improved displays.
McMeikan said the company could easily convert 50 to 100 to the new format and added: “If we get the same performance in the conversions as our first 11 then that could be more.”
In a press conference McMeikan also said the company had been adversely impacted by the weather and the timing of Christmas, which had contributed to a loss of 2% on its LFLs. However, he said the company was now a multi-channel operator – thanks to its wholesale and franchise presence – and that it did not need to be “fixated with LFLs”
He also denied that the reduction of openings planned in 2013 was a retreat from the high street, saying the planned amount 50 to 60 new shops was double historical levels.
Commodity price increases would continue to be a factor in 2013, McMeikan added, and he predicted flour would increase in cost by 25%, pork by 15 – 20%, 8 – 10% for poultry and that beef would see a hike of around 10%. This could lead to an increase in cost to the customer, he added.
On Greggs Moment, the company’s entry into the lucrative coffee shop market, the company had recently employed a “high-flyer” from Costa. McMeikan said he was looking at the estate and would report back to the board on new openings.
McMeikan, who announced last month his intention to step down as chief executive, also refused to be drawn on the subject of a successor, saying that he was “100% focused” on the job in hand.