Roger Whiteside is to step down at the group’s annual shareholder meeting in May but will remain as an adviser until January next year. He will be replaced by current retail and property director Roisin Currie, who has been with Greggs for 12 years and was previously an executive at Asda.
Analysts at brokerage Shore Capital said they were “delighted” to see Greggs appointing a female chief executive.
They added: “Whiteside has modernised and transformed Greggs for the better and shareholders will be, we are sure, most appreciative of his work.
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“Whilst he has a few more weeks firmly at the helm, we would also wish Mr Whiteside all the very best for his retirement.”
Zoe Gillespie, investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, noted: “The retirement of Roger Whiteside marks the end of an era for Greggs. However, he leaves the company in a great position and it is positive to see an appointment experienced in Greggs and who understands its ambitions and culture.”
Whiteside’s decision to leave came as the chain revealed that sales across its 2,181 stores remain strong - although growth eased in the run-up to Christmas as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 took hold.
Greggs also said supply chains are still strained and inflation remains high.
The firm told shareholders: “As expected, inflationary pressures increased towards the end of 2021 and are likely to remain elevated in 2022.”
It added that stores saw “a strong performance in October being followed by more challenging conditions as consumers responded to precautionary messages relating to the new coronavirus variant”.
Overall, sales for the 12 months of 2021 hit £1.23 billion - a 51 per cent increase on 2020 when stores were hit hard by the pandemic.
This was also a 5.3 per cent rise on sales in 2019. However, on a two-year like-for-like basis, with new stores not included in the data, sales dipped 3.3 per cent.
In the final three months of the year sales were up 0.8 per cent in 1,806 company-managed stores.
During the year, the group opened 131 sites, including 50 franchises, and closed 28 - leaving an estate of 2,181. Of those, 1,000 are now available for delivery on Just Eat.
Whiteside said: “We enter 2022 with a strong financial position that will support our ambitions to accelerate the rate of growth in our shop estate whilst developing new digital channels and extending the trading day.
“Whilst conditions in the first few months of 2022 are likely to remain challenging, we are confident that we are well placed to make progress on the many attractive opportunities that lie ahead.”
Incoming boss Currie said she believes the company continues to have a strong future.
She added: "We have created a plan for strong growth and further strategic development of Greggs and I look forward to driving this in the coming years.”