UK bakery retail chain Greggs has said its like-for-like sales showed a gradually improving trend during the second half of the year, as it recovered from the impact of the summer heat wave.

In its last trading update the company reported that like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks to 18 October were up 1.7%. This increased to 3.0% in the following ten weeks, the company said, giving an increase of 2.2% over the full 28-week period to 27 December 2003.

Group managing director Sir Michael Darrington said the company ended the year with a like-for-like sales increase over the Christmas period of 3.5%.

Greggs, which operates retail outlets in the UK under the Greggs and BAKERS OVEN banners, increased its number of stores by 29 during the year, to a total of 1,231 at year-end.

Darrington said the company is continuing to recover increases in raw material prices and is benefiting from its actions to reduce costs across the group, and therefore continues to expect satisfactory progress in 2003.