Bakery chain Greggs, which has over 660,000 Facebook fans following its victory against the “pasty tax” last year, is to slow down the pace of new store openings after a fall in profits last year.
The group, the UK’s biggest food-on-the-go retailer, blamed dismal weather and the economic downturn for a 2.7 per cent fall in like-for-like sales in the year to December 29.
New chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “Last year we had the worst weather in 100 years. It rained so much.
“If you don’t pop out and buy a sandwich on Monday, you won’t buy two on Tuesday.
“Once we’ve lost a sale, we’ve lost a sale.
“We’re confident with the plans in place we’ll see an improving trend this year... The drop in profits is not the new normal.”
Greggs reported a 2.2 per cent fall in annual pre-tax profits to £51.9m.
Snow in January resulted in a 4.0 per cent fall in like-for-like sales in the 11 weeks to March 16
Greggs announced plans to increase investment in its core estate, with stores refitted as “food on the go” outlets or given the new upmarket “Greggs the Bakery” format.
Mr Whiteside, who took over as chief executive last month, said the addition of new shops increased overall sales by 4.8 per cent to £735m.
The group opened 121 new shops last year and completed 118 shop refurbishments, while closing 21 stores.
It said it will return to a more normal level of between 50 to 60 new openings, net of closures.
Following the drop in high street footfall, Greggs is shifting its sites to retail and industrial parks, motorway service stations and travel hubs.
“We are opening stores where people live, work or travel,” said Mr Whiteside.
“Over half of new stores were in these locations last year, not the high street. This year 75 per cent of new stores will be in these sort of places.”
He added that the group is not turning its back on the high street.
“There will be net expansion on the high street,” he said.
“Most of our shops - most of our best shops - are on the high street.”