Newcastle-based food-to-go retailer Greggs said on Thursday it has appointed its retail and property director Roisin Currie to succeed Roger Whiteside as chief executive when he retires in May.
The succession news came as Greggs published a fourth-quarter trading update and said 2021 financial year total sales were £1.23 billion compared to £811 million in 2020 and £1.17 billion in 2019.
Greggs said it anticipates a full year outcome “slightly ahead of our previous expectations.”
Greggs also said it expects to be in a position to make an additional distribution to shareholders of between £30 million and £40 million in 2022.
“A decision on the size and timing of any special dividend distribution is expected to be made in the first half of 2022, subject to trading conditions,” said the Newcastle firm.
Greggs opened 131 new shops in 2021 and closed 28, and had 2,181 shops trading as at January 1, 2022.
Whiteside said: “Greggs has made great progress in 2021 despite tough trading conditions.
“Our teams across the business have done a magnificent job coping under difficult circumstances and, to recognise their hard work, we have brought forward the planned 2022 pay awards.
“We enter 2022 with a strong financial position that will support our ambitions to accelerate the rate of growth in our shop estate whilst developing new digital channels and extending the trading day.
“Whilst conditions in the first few months of 2022 are likely to remain challenging, we are confident that we are well placed to make progress on the many attractive opportunities that lie ahead.“
New CEO Currie was brought up and educated in Glasgow, where she graduated in business law and business administration at Strathclyde University.
On the CEO succession, Greggs said: “At the time of our 2020 results we stated that the company’s nominations committee would be addressing chief executive succession as Roger Whiteside approached retirement age.
“Following a comprehensive process, which considered internal and external candidates, Greggs today announces the appointment of Roisin Currie, currently Greggs retail and property director, as chief executive to be effective from the date of the company’s annual general meeting in May 2022.
“Roger Whiteside has given notice of his intention to retire from the company and it has been agreed that Roger will step down from the board at the close of the AGM, but will remain available to support the transition process until his notice expires on 5 January 2023.
“In the interim period pending appointment as chief executive, Roisin will be appointed as CEO designate and as an executive director with effect from 1 February 2022.
“Roisin currently holds the position of retail and property director, with responsibility for Greggs’ retail operations across the UK and its central support team.
“Additionally, Roisin leads the development of the Greggs shop estate and its growing delivery business, in partnership with Just Eat.
“As a member of the company’s operating board, she has played a key role in the development of the strategic plans set out last year.
“Prior to joining Greggs in 2010, Roisin worked at Asda where she held people director roles responsible for the organisation’s retail and distribution operations.
“She is a trustee of the Greggs Foundation and is chair of the Employers Forum For Reducing Re-offending.”
Greggs Chairman Ian Durant said: “Roisin has played a central role in the success of Greggs as it has developed as a multi-channel food-on-the-go business and I am delighted that she will lead the next phase of our growth as chief executive.
“She has deep experience of our culture and our strategic plan, and will lead with energy and character.
“Roger Whiteside has been an outstanding chief executive and I wish him well for the future.
“Roisin and I look forward to working with Roger to ensure a smooth transition.“
Currie said: “I am delighted to be appointed as chief executive at a time when Greggs has so much potential ahead of it.
“Having been a senior executive in the business for twelve years I understand our values-driven approach and the contribution that our 25,000 colleagues make each day.
“We have created a plan for strong growth and further strategic development of Greggs and I look forward to driving this in the coming years.“
Whiteside said: “Greggs is a fantastic organisation with a very strong team.
“Roisin is a great leader and has played a key role in the development of the business over many years, most recently in shaping our ambitious plans for further growth.
“I look forward to supporting her in the transition to her new role.”
AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: “Departing CEO Roger Whiteside is signing off from Greggs in style as the company beats expectations for what seems like the umpteenth time under his tenure.
“Notably Greggs is promoting from within. Its current retail and property director Roisin Currie, who will swell the underrepresented ranks of female CEOs in the FTSE 350, has big shoes to fill.
“The task is not made any easier by the ambitious targets already set out for the business through to 2026. Often a new CEO likes to reset expectations – Currie will not have that luxury.
“She must also contend with supply chain issues in the short term and the potentially permanent shift towards hybrid working, with fewer office workers around to grab a pastry or pasty on the way to or from work or on their lunch break.
“However, Greggs’ footprint in more suburban and residential areas, as well as town and city centres, does mean it could capture a decent portion of the so-called ‘food to go home’ spend.
“The market may be reassured by the consistency implied by an internal replacement as stepping too far away from the successful blueprint established by Whiteside would seem to be a mistake.
“The 647% total return delivered since Whiteside took over at Greggs in February 2013 is way ahead of the 75.4% return from the FTSE All-Share.
“Under his leadership the business has firmly cast off its discount bakery origins, becoming a more relevant food-on-the-go favourite and keeping up with shifting consumer tastes perhaps most markedly with the introduction of its vegan sausage roll in 2019.
“This was a masterstroke which broadened Greggs’ appeal by meeting under-served demand for warm and filling plant-based fast food.
“This road is now being travelled by much larger operators like Burger King, which recently started selling vegan nuggets, and McDonalds with the 2021 launch of the McPlant burger.”