Greggs starts year strong after first loss since 1984

Shares of Newcastle-based bakery and food retailer Greggs rose about 3% on Tuesday after it told investors it made a better-than-expected start to 2021 as it reported its first annual loss since its 1984 stock market listing.

Greggs said revenue fell 30.5% to £811.3 million in the 53 weeks to January 2, 2021, and it made a loss before tax of £13.7 million compared to a 2019 profit of £108.3 million.

The company said 84 new shops opened in 2020, with 56 closures. Greggs had 2,078 shops as at January 2, 2021, and is planning about 100 net new shops for 2021.

“… we have raised our target for the UK estate to 3,000 shops,” said the company.

On its dividend policy, Greggs said: “The planned final dividend for 2019 was a casualty of the need to preserve cash in the spring of 2020 and it has not been possible or appropriate to pay any further dividends since.

“In order to recommence a dividend distribution, the company will need to return to a level of profitability and cash generation sufficient to support its investment programme whilst maintaining appropriate liquidity.”

Greggs shares have risen more than 50% over the past 12 months to give the firm a current stock market value of £2.3 billion.

Greggs CEO Roger Whiteside said: “Having made good progress through the second half of 2020 we have made a better-than-expected start to 2021 given the extent of lockdown conditions and the particular challenges in Scotland where our shops have been closed to walk-in customers. 

“In the ten weeks to 13 March 2021, company-managed shop like-for-like sales were down 28.8 per cent year-on-year. 

“Outside of Scotland, company-managed shop like-for-like sales in the rest of the UK estate were down 22.4 per cent year-on-year. 

“We have seen an improving trend each week with delivery sales being particularly strong in these conditions, at 9.6 per cent of total company-managed shop sales in the year to date.

Greggs is well placed to participate in the recovery from the pandemic and has demonstrated its resilience and capability to operate under such challenging conditions.

“With good liquidity and growing digital capabilities Greggs is an attractive proposition that can grow further in new locations, channels and dayparts.”