With 66 years of operations under its belt, Greenhalgh’s Craft Bakery is a firm local favourite among its customers in the Bolton area.

Founder Allan Smart passed the business down to his son David, who’s own four children have assumed executive roles. The siblings are now spearheading Greenhalgh’s post-pandemic retail recovery and leading it into a brighter future through rapid sales growth online and via delivery vans. All areas of the business are predicted to further improve this years, with estimated revenue totalling more than £27m.

Archive photos of Greenhalgh's bakery including old vans (left) and founder Allan Smart in 1957 (right).

Source: Greenhalgh’s

Archive photos of Greenhalgh’s bakery including old vans (left) and founder Allan Smart in 1957 (right).

Sales and marketing manager Georgie Smart-Stanton jokes that her father is “never going to retire – he loves the business too much”. However, she notes the managing director was starting to take longer holidays and entrust the business more to them every passing week.

“We have to move into the future, but we’ll never forget where we came from”

The next generation appears confident of putting the success in Greenhalgh’s succession, with each bringing their own skillset to enhance a business that currently employs around 950 staff across 49 shops and two production sites.

It produces a wide range of products for retail and wholesale, from pies, pasties, sausage rolls, bread and soup, to cakes, doughnuts, and sweet loaves. The manufacturer even offers a luxury pork pie wedding cake, and once set the Guinness World Record for the largest hot cross bun, which tipped the scales at 168kg.

Georgina’s brother Stephen Smart is bakery director, sister Megan Cocomazzi is the internet expert heading up e-commerce and website development, while sister Sarah Goulding takes care of mobile sales including sandwich vans and food festivals, as well as its various charity work via the recently launched Greenhalgh’s Foundation.

“All of us have a great sense of the past,” says Smart-Stanton. “We have to move into the future, but we’ll never forget where we came from.”

The third generation of family-run Greenhalgh's craft bakery (L-R) Sarah Goulding, Stephen Smart, Georgie Smart-Stanton, and Megan Cocomazzi  200x850

Source: Greenhalgh’s

The third generation of family-run Greenhalgh’s craft bakery (L-R) Sarah Goulding, Stephen Smart, Georgie Smart-Stanton, and Megan Cocomazzi

Having reached 62 shops prior to the pandemic, they are looking to return Greenhalgh’s estate to its former glory, and beyond with two new outlets planned for this year. “Obviously we have to look at profitable shops and non-profitable shops,” says Smart-Stanton. “We closed a few down during the Covid years, but the aim is to get it right back up there.”

Expansion strategy

A completely new strategy for expansion sees the company “going more into out-of-town areas and retail parks”. Smart-Stanton highlights a recent retail addition on Chorley New Road in Bolton which she says is taking three times more money than other shops, “all because it has a car park outside of it”.

Customers are understandably keen to avoid the traffic and “extortionate” parking fees associated with town centre shopping, with Greenhalgh’s striving to provide free parking for the majority of its outlets.

Staff behind the counter of Greenhalgh's new bakery shop in Burscough.

Source: Greenhalgh’s

Staff behind the counter of Greenhalgh’s new bakery shop in Burscough.

Another strategy is locating next to “pull-in shops” – more famous chains which attract customers to the site. The most recent opening for Greenhalgh’s at Ringtail Retail Park in Burscough, near Ormskirk, is close to a Subway and a B&M Bargains store. Other shops have the likes of a Co-op or Aldi nearby.

The expansion hasn’t been all plain sailing though. Smart-Stanton reveals that Burscough seems to have been “one of the longest openings I’ve ever known in my life”, taking six months compared to the usual six-week around. “We’ve had a bit of issue with Northern Electricity, because no one rented this unit out before so it’s very much from scratch.”

With Greenhalgh’s shops predominantly selling food-to-go items, the sales manager expresses a desire to open a drive-thru. “I would love to do it and I would hope that in the future that we could do it, but it would have to certainly be in the right place, the heart of Greenhalgh’s really – Bolton and Wigan,” she says, admitting they are extremely expensive ventures.

The online revolution

Online sales and marketing are something the successors, born into the internet age, have taken full authority over. Megan taught herself coding to develop the company website, which now includes an e-commerce platform for nationwide shipping orders, as well as sites for Greenhalgh’s two sister companies – Hand Crafted Real Bread and Hand Crafted Cake.

The former specialises in sourdoughs, focaccias, and speciality bread, selling at farmer’s markets and trade shows as well as via its online shop, while the latter creates celebration cakes and sweet treats including custom orders for weddings, birthdays, and other special occasions.

Greenhalgh’s now employs a team for social media with promotional campaigns, competitions, product launches and more posted regularly on channels including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Meanwhile, financial reports confirm the remarkable progress made away from retail. Shop sales rose by just 1.4% to £14.6m last year compared to 2021 figures, but internet revenue leapt nearly 16% over the same period to a total of £341,000 in 2022. Van sales recorded an even more impressive increase, almost doubling year-on-year to £777,000.

Greenhalgh's sandwich van

Source: Greenhalgh’s

Greenhalgh’s sandwich van

Orders via food delivery apps also experienced significant growth throughout the pandemic years, with Greenhalgh’s stores on some or all of the three major platforms – Uber Eats, Just Eat, and Deliveroo. Combined sales can hit £20,000 on a good week, according to Smart-Stanton. However, the company is noticing a lot of cancelled orders due to a lack of drivers in the local area, and is looking to develop its own app.

Greenhalgh’s uses DPD for delivery orders from customers nationwide, while its fleet – which Sarah has helped triple over the past three years to now total nine vans – delivers to workplaces and homes in the Bolton, Wigan, Chorley, and Blackburn areas.

Premium NPD pipeline

The sales manager claims the company is “constantly evolving” and being “so close knit” allows it to turn over new products daily or weekly if necessary. She says they remain focussed on “what we do best” including keeping shops stocked with hero products such as the meat & potato pie, which will “always win the day” for retail. “60% of our business is pies and pasties and hot takeaway like soups,” adds Smart-Stanton.

Greenhalgh's best-selling meat & potato pie

Source: Greenhalgh’s

Best-selling meat & potato pie

However, she reveals that one of her top priorities at this time is building up new seasonal lines including freshly-made sandwiches with different flavours and fillings, salads and pasta pots. “We have to obviously ensure that we’re profitable within the summer months as well,” she adds.

Despite the cost-of-living crisis, Greenhalgh’s says it will fully maintain the premium nature of their range, handcrafting a lot of their products and using the finest quality ingredients such as lard from Italy and Canadian wheat.

“Throughout the years, we’ve tried to do budget ranges, but they’ve never been successful,” comments Smart-Stanton. “I think people that come to Greenhalgh’s actually know that they will be paying that extra money compared to some of our other competitors, but they know they get it damn good product out of it.”

“Once people join our company, they tend not to want to leave”

Being seen as a local family bakers is helping with this, she notes, revealing that 2023 sales are up 10% on last year. “January to April is notoriously quite a slow quarter, but actually we’ve seen the complete opposite this year, which is fantastic news really,” she says.

Staff retention at Greenhalgh’s appears to be exceptional, with some managers said to have stayed with the company for over 40 years. A worker recently retired after 55 years of service.

The business had a policy of moving employees to other shops when Covid caused closures, which avoided redundancies, and has put it in an excellent position to cope with the emerging issue of recruitment. “Once people join our company, they tend not to want to leave,” Smart-Stanton says.