Greggs, the high street bakery, has reported like-for-like (LFL) sales were up 3.7% for the first 18 weeks of the year, which it credited to hot sandwiches and breakfasts.

The company, which recorded a total sales increase of 5.7% for the period to 7 May, said in common with wider conditions on the high street, March had seen “softer” trading before recovery in recent weeks.

Although LFL sales rose 3.7%, this was significantly down from last year’s 6% LFL growth.

The retailer said recent improvements to its menu were proving popular, in particular its hot sandwich range and extended breakfast menu, as well as the introduction of a flat white coffee.

An extended fresh fruit offering and upgraded salads range has also helped to boost sales. Greggs has turned to healthier options as a means of boosting sales, and the tactic appears to be paying off – Balanced Choice products accounted for 10% of sales, the company said in March, when it announced a 30% rise in its dividend.

In a continued bid to target the healthy eating market, Greggs launched its Balanced Choice range last week, on 2 May. 

The company added it had made a good start to the year, with “progress in line with expectations”, but found that “conditions on the high street were softer in March before recovering in recent weeks; these conditions were reflected in our own performance”.

Greggs said it had completed 55 shop refurbishments in the period to 7 May, and is looking to refurbish 200 in total in the year. In addition, 43 new shops have been opened in the year to date, including 23 franchised units in transport locations. It closed 21 shops, giving a total of 1,720 shops trading at 7 May (1,592 company-managed and 128 franchised units). 

Planned closures

Greggs also said it would go ahead with a planned closure of three bakeries in Edinburgh, Twickenham and Sleaford following consultations with union representatives.

It said: “Our people impacted by these proposals have demonstrated their commitment and professionalism during a difficult period, and our focus now is to work with them individually to ensure that we manage these changes in line with Greggs’ values as a responsible employer.

“Alongside these closures we will continue to develop our plans to invest in our remaining supply chain network over the next five years in order to create centres of excellence serving our growing shop estate.”