Belfast Telegraph

Greggs boss 'very pleased' with Northern Ireland launch as shops roll-out continues

By John Mulgrew

Greggs will continue opening stores across Northern Ireland, the company's chief executive has confirmed. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph during a trading update conference call, Roger Whiteside explained he was extremely happy with the firm's progress in setting up here.

"We are very pleased and we are up to five shops now (in Belfast) and have just opened at Donegall Square," he said.

"That's all very exciting. We have had a couple of good units."

He said the chain would be "carrying on opening" across Northern Ireland where there is the demand.

Greggs is expanding across the province, opening five stores in Belfast, along with others at Applegreen service stations and one in Bangor.

It is understood that the firm is planning to roll out 50 across the province in total.

But Mr Whiteside said there were no firm targets in mind for store numbers.

The company saw its sales rise by almost 3% in the 13 weeks to October, boosted by its healthy options range.

Mr Whiteside said that the business had already undergone 145 refits of its existing stores across the UK this year, with an aim for 200 in total.

He added there had already been 70 new shop openings across the country this year.

Speaking about Brexit, Mr Whiteside said that there had been "no impact" on the business so far.

He also explained that the firm's "exposure is minimal" to any restrictions on foreign workers which could be introduced once the UK has left the EU.

Despite its reputation as a purveyor of sausage rolls, healthier options such as salads and yoghurts helped boost sales at Greggs in the third quarter. Like-for-like sales rose 2.8% in the 13 weeks to October 1, with the company flagging the strong performance of its Balanced Choice and breakfast products over the summer months.

"Greggs continued to trade in line with our expectations in the third quarter," the company said yesterday.

"The popularity of our summer menu, including an extended range of Balanced Choice salads and yoghurts, supported sales growth in the period.

"We also saw continued strong growth at breakfast time, helped by our strong coffee offer and value deals."

In the year to date, like-for-like sales are up 3.4%.

The company added that it was on track to open 140 to 150 shops and close around 70 to 80 under-performing stores over the year, a net increase of around 70.

Looking ahead to autumn-winter, the group said that lower-calorie bakes and soups would feature on its menu, along with a range of new snacks with gluten-free options.

Chipotle pulled beef, fiery pulled chicken and onion bhaji burritos will also be available.

Greggs will open a new distribution centre in Enfield in north London in the coming weeks and complete the previously announced closure of its Twickenham bakery in November.

The company has so far opened up five Belfast spots already this year.

While the Royal Avenue store has been in business for several months, next door neighbour Bravissimo cooked up a storm after it objected to having the cafe and budget pasty chain as a neighbour, with concerns over the smell of sausage rolls and pies wafting into the lingerie shop and affecting business.

Greggs has also just opened up a new cafe at Donegall Square West, close to City Hall, which will also become its head office here.

That cafe and head office in the former home of the Spinning Wheel is close to upmarket rival Patisserie Valerie.

Greggs is also launching other locations at Duncrue Industrial Estate, the Kennedy Centre in west Belfast, Boucher Road and Castle Lane in the city centre.

It opened its first store at the Applegreen service station on the M2 in April last year, with others at new service stations soon following.

Belfast Telegraph