Greggs has continued to defy the downturn after its latest figures showed total group sales were up 5.2% for the 19 weeks to 9 May.

The bakery retailer also saw like-for-like sales grow 2% in the same period. It “enjoyed a successful Easter”, having sold over 2.3 million hot cross buns so far this year – a 10% increase on 2008.

Chairman Derek Netherton said there had been encouraging signs of greater stability in customer numbers over recent weeks, and performance remained in line with expectations.

“Margins are as we budgeted, with ingredient costs continuing to increase overall, but offset by some improvement in energy costs, which we expect to continue during the second half,” continued Netherton.

The chain launched the latest phase of its television advertising campaign last month, featuring comedian Paddy McGuinness, and is currently emphasising the promotion of its improved three-cheese recipe cheese and onion pasties and new Belgian chocolate muffins.

It is continuing to create a single Greggs brand and has now converted 35 of its 160 Bakers Oven shops.

A proposed 10-for-one share split, subject to approval at Greggs’ Annual General Meeting today (13 May), will take affect on Monday, 28 May. “We believe that this will make the company’s shares more accessible, particularly to small shareholders and our own employees,” said Netherton.