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Tue 30th Jul 2019 - Update: Bill's reports 8% like-for-likes, Greggs chalks up 10.5% like-for-likes
Bill’s reports like-for-likes up 8% in first half of 2019, makes two key promotions: Bill’s Restaurants, owned by Richard Caring, has reported continued growth, with like-for-like sales up 8% in the first half of 2019. The company said performance had been consistently ahead of the CGA Peach Tracker every month since late 2018. Bill’s has also promoted two members of its team. As reported by Propel last week, Sarah Hills has been promoted to managing director. Hills joined the company in September as executive operations director having stepped down from Wagamama at the end of 2017 after 17 years, the latter two of which were spent as UK managing director. Meanwhile, Lesley McIlroy, who joined Bill’s at the same time as Hills, has been promoted from head of marketing to marketing director. Executive chairman David Campbell said: “Both Sarah and Lesley have done fantastic jobs helping drive the growth of the business, and building great teams who are really transforming things, and I’d like to congratulate them on their well-deserved new positions.” 

Greggs reports 10.5% like-for-like sales growth in First Half: Greggs has reported sales up 14.7% to £546m in the 24 weeks ended 29 June. Company managed shop like-for-like sales rose 10.5%. Underlying pre-tax profit rose to £40.6m from £25.7m in the comparable half year. The company said it had seen exceptionally strong trading, helped by the popularity of its vegan sausage roll. It reported traditional bakery favourites are selling well alongside growth in Fairtrade coffee, breakfast and new hot food options. A total of 53 new shop were opened with 23 closed – it expects around 100 net new shop for the year as a whole. Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “Greggs has delivered an exceptional first half performance, building on the strong finish to 2018. We have continued to make strategic progress with our programmes of investment in infrastructure to support future growth and in developing the products and channels to market that will help achieve our ambition to be the customers’ favourite for food-on-the-go. Given the strength of our year to date and the outlook, we have decided to increase investment in strategic initiatives in the second half of the year to help to deliver an even stronger customer proposition and further growth in the years ahead. Our expectations for underlying profits for the year as a whole remain unchanged.” He added: “The very strong performance in the first half of 2019 was broadly-based. We saw excellent sales growth and at the same time delivered higher service standards and good operational cost control. Market conditions were also supportive, with high employment levels, growth in consumers’ disposable incomes and more settled weather than was the case in the first half of 2018. We came into 2019 with good sales momentum, which had built progressively through the second half of 2018. The launch of the now famous vegan-friendly sausage roll took this to another level, with initial demand significantly outstripping our expectations. The product has remained extremely popular with customers and is now one of our top sellers, demonstrating the demand for greater dietary choice in food-on-the-go. Our award-winning marketing initiatives surrounding product launches and customer engagement are helping to drive increased customer visits, broadening our appeal for food-on-the-go at all times of the day. Growth in customer visits has in turn driven strong sales across our traditional savoury products and sales of our traditional sweet products continue to benefit from the improved quality delivered by our investment in manufacturing centres of excellence. Breakfast-on-the-go remains the fastest-growing element of our trading day, with sales of our freshly-ground Fairtrade coffee now placing us third in the UK out-of-home coffee market. Our breakfast food offer is growing with fresh porridge and hot breakfast boxes becoming available in more shops as we roll out hot food cabinets. With increasing demand for convenient meal solutions, we are continuing to develop our offer for later in the day. Our focaccia-style pizzas are growing in popularity, supported by our post-4pm pizza deal of a pizza slice and a drink for just £2. Hot food options are also being developed with the roll-out of hot food cabinets supporting growing sales of new lines alongside our existing hot sandwich range. Trials of extended late opening hours will follow in the autumn. The current growth in customer numbers is a great opportunity for us to demonstrate to new and returning customers how significantly we have transformed the Greggs shop estate, creating an attractive food-on-the-go experience with relevant products, extended trading hours and more seating. In the first half of 2019 we opened 54 new shops (including 16 franchised units) and closed 23 shops, giving a total of 1,984 shops (of which 275 are franchise units) trading at 29 June 2019. The emphasis on opening shops close to where customers are working or travelling is contributing to the ongoing rebalancing of the Greggs estate. 38% of our shops now serve catchments wholly outside of traditional shopping locations and we anticipate that this proportion will continue to grow to more than 50% in the longer term. We have just opened our fourth drive-through location in Newcastle upon Tyne and continue to work with partners to bring Greggs to other travel catchments such as railway stations, road and motorway services, and airports. Our pipeline of new shop opportunities remains strong and we expect around 100 net openings in the year as a whole, of which around 40 are anticipated to be with franchise partners.” On the outlook for the business, he added: “Current trading remains strong, although we continue to expect that the rate of like-for-like growth will begin to normalise as we face stronger comparative numbers in the second half of the year. Commodity cost pressure has been modest in the first half of 2019 but we expect higher food input costs in the balance of the year, resulting in overall cost inflation being at the higher end of our expectations. The negotiation of the UK’s exit terms from the European Union continues to present significant uncertainties in the months ahead, with the potential impact that a disorderly exit might have on supply chains, tariffs, exchange rates and consumer demand. As disclosed at the time of our preliminary results in March, we are building stocks of key ingredients and equipment that could be affected by disruption to the flow of goods into the UK. Given the strength of our year to date and the outlook, we have decided to increase investment in strategic initiatives in the second half of the year to help to deliver an even stronger customer proposition and further growth in the years ahead. These additional investments will offset the higher returns from our ongoing strong momentum, and therefore we maintain our previous expectations for underlying profits for the year as a whole. At the same time the strength of our financial position is allowing us to deliver enhanced returns for shareholders.”

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