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Greggs sees ‘encouraging’ sales recovery

Greggs vegan sausage roll on a paper bag

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Bakery chain Greggs has said its sales have recovered to “encouraging” levels since it reopened shops in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

It said sales were running at 72% of 2019’s level, with all but a handful of its 2,025 outlets now trading again.

Although many people are still away from their workplaces, chief executive Roger Whiteside said Greggs was not that dependent on office workers.

The vast majority of its customers “simply can’t work from home”, he said.

Greggs said it would be breaking even when sales reached 80% of last year’s level.

Mr Whiteside was speaking as Greggs unveiled a £65.2m loss for the first half of 2020. In the same period a year earlier, it made a profit of £36.7m.

The firm said it had limited its range to best-selling items for the time being, “in anticipation of lower-than-normal sales levels under social distancing”.

It added: “It is clear that sales will be constrained whilst these conditions prevail, with an observed impact on both our capacity to serve and on customer demand.”

Trading ‘resilient’

Mr Whiteside told the BBC that sausage rolls, sandwiches and other favourites were now available at all Greggs’ shops, except for seven in the Leicester area, which remained closed as part of a local lockdown.

He said sales at town and city centre outlets were down 45%, while those near public transport hubs were 65% lower.

However, Greggs had proved “resilient”, with most of its shops “nowhere near offices”.

“Office workers form a portion of our customer base, but the vast majority, over 80%, simply can’t work from home or aren’t working at all, they’re students or retired or whatever,” Mr Whiteside said.

“So yes, there’s some exposure to office working, but it’s not as complete as some people might think.”

Mr Whiteside said that about three-quarters of Greggs’ staff had now returned from furlough.

He added that Greggs would keep the remaining 25% on the furlough scheme, which runs until the end of October.

When asked what would happen then, he said: “I am positive that the economy will continue to get back to normal, whatever that is.”

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