Greggs – which employs nearly 2,500 people in the Midlands – yesterday reported improving sales but admitted the long-awaited recovery had come later than expected.
The bakery chain said like-for-like sales were up two per cent in the six weeks to December 9 compared with a 0.2 per cent increase in the previous 19 weeks and no improvement in the first six months of the year.
Greggs, which has more than 1,000 shops under the Greggs and Bakers Oven brands, has suffered from changing eating trends and falling demand during the hot weather.
It has added a Healthier Options range of low-fat wraps, rolls, sandwiches and salads to its pies and sausage rolls offerings.
Greggs said: "Although the weather has not been consistently helpful, we have benefited from progressively easier sales comparatives with the prior year.
"Whilst we are pleased by the emergence of this more positive sales trend, it has come somewhat later than we had hoped.
"This delay will have only a marginal effect on the outturn for the year."
Greggs axed 14 shops and cut 200 jobs in August following poor sales at it Bakers Oven shops in northern England and Scotland.
Yesterday, it said the rationalisation of the brand in both regions was on schedule and was being "generally well received by our customers". The company said the cost of the closures would be #1.25 million more than the #2.5 million originally expected but added that the restructuring will add at least #1.25 million to profits from next year.
Greggs also appointed Greggs of Scotland managing director Raymond Reynolds retail director as it looked to improve the business.
Greggs managing director Sir Michael Darrington said: "By focusing on the development and marketing of a unified national brand, we aim to make the whole Greggs business more responsive, increasing our ability to meet new competitive challenges by
delivering to our customers exactly what they want, when they want it.
"I am delighted to welcome Raymond to the board as the new national champion of the Greggs brand.
"He has proved his management abilities over two successful decades with the group, and I am sure he is the ideal person to lead this exciting new phase of the brand's growth."
Mr Reynolds joined Greggs in sales management in 1986.
During the 1990s he built a significant new business for Greggs in the Edinburgh region, and in 2002 he was appointed managing director of Greggs of Scotland, the group's most successful division.
Greggs was founded as a family bakery business on Tyneside in the 1930s by John Gregg, and has grown to be one of the leading high street retailers.
Expansion outside the North-east was driven by the acquisition of locally-established bakery chains, starting in Scotland. It serves about four million customers a week. Shares closed up 13p at 4203p.