Newcastle-based bakery chain Greggs has cheered a strong start to the year after notching up a sales hike as its expansion continues across Britain’s high streets.

The firm reported a 7.4% rise in like-for-like sales for the first 19 weeks of 2024.

It recently hit a milestone for 2,500 shops trading nationwide, having expanded the chain by 27 on a net basis – those opened less those closed – in the 19 weeks to May 11.

Greggs added that its new range of iced drinks was “performing well”, with plans to roll it out further from 300 shops now to up to 700 in the coming months.

The new range includes coffee, flavoured lemonades and coolers.

Chief executive Roisin Currie said staff costs remained the primary driver of inflation in the business.

“The majority of cost inflation pressures that we face this year is wages. We put through a wage increase at the start of January.”

When asked about price increases, Ms Currie added: “We continue to keep that under review, making sure that we offer great value to customers.”

The group said it remains on track for full-year expectations after the first quarter trading and said that it continues to forecast a 4% to 5% rise in its own costs over the year.

A company statement said:  “We have made a good start to the year with continued like-for-like growth in a challenging market, reflecting the strength of our strategic plan.”

The update comes after Greggs recently became the latest UK retailer to suffer a systems outage.

A raft of its stores were forced to close during one morning last month after technical issues left it unable to accept payments.

The problem impacted shops nationwide but was resolved later in the same day.

In its latest update, Greggs said it was “building capacity for further growth in the UK” as is confident of opening up to another 160 shops on a net basis over the full year.

The firm said demand for pizza boxes has been strong in the recent 19 weeks following a dedicated campaign, while hot food favourites include its southern fried chicken goujons and southern fried potato wedges.

The group has also been expanding its healthier food ranges, recently launching a vegetarian pesto and mozzarella pasta dish, as well as feta and tomato pasta.