BOOMING sales of mince pies and coffee helped bakery chain Greggs toast an "excellent" 10.8% jump in sales over Christmas and New Year today.
The Newcastle-based company, which has 1,571 shops in the UK, said sales excluding the impact of new store openings were up by 5.1% in the five weeks to January 7.
It sold a record seven-and-a-half million mince pies, while sales of its festive bakes lifted 27% and coffee sales increased 21%.
Despite rising food and energy costs, Greggs said competitive market conditions had led to more promotional offers although it does not expect this to impact on its full-year results performance.
For the 2011 financial year as a whole, total sales grew by 5.8% and like-for-like sales by 1.4%. During the year it opened a record 98 new shops and also completed 170 shop refurbishments.
The expansion created around 800 new jobs and took its headcount above 20,000 for the first time.
Chief executive Ken McMeikan said: "An excellent Christmas boosted our sales performance at the end of a tough year for high streets. For the five-week Christmas and New Year trading period ending January 7, total sales grew by 10.8% and like-for-like sales by 5.1%.
"Highlights during the Christmas period included record sales of our award-winning sweet mince pies with more than seven and a half million sold since the launch of our seasonal range, a 27% increase in sales of Festive Bakes and coffee sales up 21%.
"For our financial year as a whole (52 weeks ending 31 December 2011) total sales grew by 5.8% and like-for-like sales by 1.4%.
"The level of cost inflation in food ingredients began to ease towards the end of the year in line with our forecasts. Rising food and energy costs have been a feature of 2011 but to reduce the impact on customers we have continued to invest in promotional activity in order to maintain our value position in what has remained a very competitive market.
"Despite these pressures, we anticipate that we will report full-year results in line with expectations when we make our preliminary announcement on March 14.
"During the year we opened a record 98 new shops and delivered a net increase of 84, after 14 closures, to give us a total of 1,571 shops at December 31. We also completed 170 shop refurbishments. Our continued expansion created some 800 new jobs, lifting our total employee numbers above 20,000 for the first time.
"We anticipate that the tough trading environment will continue during 2012, with consumers' disposable incomes remaining under pressure. We will therefore continue to focus on maximising our customer appeal through product innovation and strong promotional activity, building on Greggs' already excellent reputation for value.
"We expect another year of marginally positive like-for-like sales growth in 2012 while total sales will benefit from the opening of around 90 net new shops, creating a further 800 new retail jobs and making Greggs even more accessible to customers across the UK."
In other positive news for the high street today, supermarket giant Sainsbury’s pledged to extend its price matching scheme as it revealed better-than-expected sales in the run-up to Christmas.
The third biggest grocer in the UK saw like-for-like sales excluding fuel grow 2.1% in the 14 weeks to January 7, with customer transactions in the week before Christmas increasing by 1.5 million to a record 26 million.
The group said its Brand Match scheme - a guarantee that if an identical basket of branded goods could be bought more cheaply in Asda or Tesco, a coupon will be given at the till for the difference - was a hit and will continue into 2012.
Sainsbury’s, which opened its 1,000th store in the period, said revenues were driven by strong food sales, including £2 million of Taste the Difference turkeys, but general merchandise sales again grew at a faster rate than food.
The update comes after market research figures revealed Sainsbury’s achieved its highest share of the market since March 2003 with 16.7%, while bigger rival Tesco lost share.