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Business & Economy

Baker Greggs expands digital services to boost COVID-19 trade rebound

A baker that began life selling eggs and yeast to families on Tyneside’s streets plans to launch a nationwide digital expansion to stimulate its fortunes in the COVID-19 landscape.

Greggs aims to roll out its existing click-and-collect and delivery services across the UK in the coming months.

Bosses at the Newcastle-headquartered pie and pasty maker say their blueprint will help the business rebound from the impact on trading caused by COVID-19, with its digital offering keeping pace with demand while helping the firm abide by social distancing rules.

Under the terms of its click and collect service, customers are able to order and pay for items online, before choosing a shop and a time to pick up their food.

Greggs’ delivery option is run alongside website Just Eat, with consumers able to get snacks sent to their door from a listed number of stores.

Confirming the business’ desire to extend its digital presence, chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “(These) channels can help us serve additional customers in a safe and effective manner during social distancing.

“We are therefore planning to roll both services out nationwide in the months ahead.

“Those digital-only shops that formed part of our reopening programme are now being reviewed with a view to transitioning to combined walk-in and digital services that can still operate within our social distancing procedures.

“While customer footfall remains below normal, we have adapted our plans to develop later evening trading to focus on those stores offering delivery and click and collect.”

The plans were revealed today (Tuesday, July 28) in a half-year trading update, which outlined the full impact of COVID-19 on Greggs’ finances.

According to its results, total sales in the first half stood at £300.6 million, which was down considerably on the £546.3 million in the corresponding period a year earlier.

The chain also suffered a pre-tax loss of £65.2 million, compared to a £36.7 million profit in the first half of 2019, as the enforced closure of shops during the lockdown period took their toll.

However, officials say they have enjoyed an “encouraging sales trend” since reopening, with demand last week reaching 72 per cent of its 2019 level across company-managed shops.

Highlighting its progress in the weeks since lockdown was eased, Roger said the chain – which has more than 2000 stores – is “better placed to adapt to new conditions than ever before.”

He said: “Following successive years of unbroken growth, we made a great start to 2020, coming into the year with momentum and clear strategic plans.

“The strength of our business model enabled us to secure the liquidity needed to support our business through the current crisis and then to adapt our operation and strategic investment plans in response to the new environment.

“Greggs is now well prepared to deal with the challenges of social distancing and operate through the conditions we are faced with.

“Greggs remains a much-loved brand with long-term growth opportunities.”

Roger added the company, which received £150 million from the Bank of England’s COVID Corporate Financing Facility scheme and has used the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, has not declared an interim dividend to shareholders.