British food-to-go retailer Greggs said its retail and property director Roisin Currie would succeed Roger Whiteside as chief executive in May, as it reported a 0.8% rise in like-for-like sales for its fourth quarter compared to two years ago.
The company, known for its sausage rolls, sandwiches and cakes, said it anticipated its full-year outcome would be slightly ahead of its previous expectations.
Greggs, which trades from 2,181 shops, said a strong performance in October was followed by more challenging conditions as consumers responded to precautionary messages relating to the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The company said it also had to cope with continued disruption to staffing and supply chains in the quarter, and said conditions in the first few months of 2022 were likely to remain challenging.
'Tough Trading Conditions'
"Greggs has made great progress in 2021 despite tough trading conditions," Whiteside said.
Total sales in 2021 were £1.23 billion (€1.47 billion), it said, against £811 million (€970 million) in 2020 when it was hit by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, and £1.17 billion (€1.4 billion) in 2019.
The company ended the year with cash of £198 million, which it said would allow it open about 150 new stores this year, develop digital channels and extend its trading day.
Greggs, which sold 6.7 million of its shop-baked mince pies over the festive season, said it would also be able to pay an addition £30-£40 million to shareholders in a special dividend.
Whiteside had given notice of his intention to retire, Greggs said.
'Solid Earnings Performance': Analyst
Commenting on Greggs' performance, Joshua Raymond, director at financial brokerage XTB, said, "The big news and overshadowing another solid earnings performance is long-time CEO Roger Whiteside is retiring, to be replaced by retail and property head Roisin Currie. Given the fantastic growth of the Greggs brand under Whiteside's leadership, its no surprise to see some instability in the share price this morning, which trades lower by 2%.
"However, Currie is also a longstanding member of the leadership team and so the expectation is the transition should be relatively smooth. What she faces is significant inflationary headwinds and what shareholders will want to see is stability in profit margins over the coming year. This will be no easy task for the new CEO."
News by Reuters, additional reporting by ESM. For more Retail news, click here. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.