British baker Greggs said on Tuesday it made a very strong start to 2020 in January but saw a significant slowdown in February due to widespread storms that kept shoppers away, taking the shine off a stellar 2019.
The group said company-managed shop like-for-like sales rose 7.5% in the nine weeks to February 29, having risen 9.2% in the year to December 28, 2019.
Greggs also cautioned there was some uncertainty in the outlook, particularly given the potential impact of coronavirus.
"This aside we expect to make year-on-year progress and will do so from a strong financial position," said chief executive Roger Whiteside.
The group, which trades from over 2,050 outlets in the UK, said 2019 pretax profit excluding exceptional items rose 27.2% to £114.2 million (€131.4 million), ahead of analysts' expectations.
Total sales rose 13.5% to £1.17 billion (€1.35 billion), helped by a net 97 new shop openings and the popularity of products such as its vegan-friendly sausage roll.
Greggs increased its total dividend by 25.8% to 44.9 pence and said it would consider payment of another special dividend at the time of its interim results.
Shares in the firm have risen 16% over the last year on the back of a series of positive updates. They closed Monday at 2,090 pence, valuing the business at £2.13 billion.
News by Reuters, edited by ESM. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.