UPDATE 1-Wet weather hits Christmas sales at UK baker Greggs

Wed Jan 9, 2013 3:59am EST

* Like-for-like sales down 2.9 pct for 5 weeks to Jan. 5

* Total sales up 4.3 pct for Christmas period

* Like-for-like sales for FY 2012 down 2.7 pct

* CEO expects 2013 to remain challenging

By Paul Sandle

LONDON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Wet weather and fewer shopping hours hit British baker Greggs in the run up to the holiday season, with sales at stores open over a year falling 2.9 percent, it said on Wednesday.

The company, which sold a record 8.5 million mince pies in the festive season, said its performance was "resilient" given the weather and the fact two of the busiest shopping days fell on a Sunday, when shopping hours are restricted.

Chief Executive Ken McMeikan said Greggs, which sells sandwiches and hot savouries as well as bread and cakes, was susceptible to rain, which could reduce sales by 3-5 percent.

"What we saw in the run up to Christmas this year was the most severe flooding in southern England, southern Wales, parts of Scotland and in the Midlands," he told reporters.

"It certainly has had an impact on our like-for-likes (underlying sales)."

Total sales rose 4.3 percent in the five weeks to Jan. 5., helped by demand for the products it supplies to supermarket chain Iceland and sales at its franchised shops in motorway services, which together contributed 3 percent of growth.

Greggs, which trades from 1,670 shops, suffered in tandem with many of Britain's other retailers in 2012 as the pressures on consumers from a weak economy persist.

Like-for-like sales for the year fell 2.7 percent, the group said, while total sales rose 4.8 percent in a period when it opened a record 121 new stores.

There was little upturn at the end of the year for retailers, the British Retail Consortium said on Tuesday. Underlying retail sales rose 0.3 percent year-on-year in December, well below the rate of inflation.

McMeikan expected trading to "remain challenging" in 2013, particularly in the first quarter as shoppers pay off credit card bills.

Shares in Greggs were up 0.2 percent at 452 pence at 0848 GMT, after touching a 17-month low of 444.5 pence in early trade.

Analysts at Liberum Capital said the slowdown in like-for-like sales, from the run rate of minus 2.4 percent in the third quarter, capped a tough year for Greggs.

The broker said it expected consensus market forecasts for 2013 adjusted pretax profit to fall 3 percent to its estimate of 53.3 million pounds ($85.5 million). It expects adjusted pretax profit of 52 million pounds for 2012.