In every week of dismal information for retail, shares in Greggs hit an all-time excessive on the again of some savvy advertising and strong buying and selling figures.
It is a turnaround from the spring when it issued a revenue warning after freezing climate dented gross sales.
Nevertheless it was the launch of a vegan sausage roll that propelled it into the headlines.
It was one other instance of how Greggs has harnessed social media to spice up income.
The advertising marketing campaign – helped by a debate over whether or not the vegan product might be known as a sausage roll in any respect – has been known as “a grasp class in public relations” by the trade journal PR Week.
The marketing campaign was, crucially, delivered with a way of humour and made no try to evangelise a vegan message.
Its Youtube advert parodied the tone of an iPhone business and garnered 5 million views. However the advertising went far past a single video.
Journalists have been despatched vegan rolls in mock iPhone packaging and shops offered Greggs Christmas jumpers and sausage roll cellphone instances.
One journalist specifically equipped rocket gas for the marketing campaign.
In a tweet Piers Morgan, presenter of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, mentioned: “No person was ready for a vegan bloody sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns.”
Different celebrities reacted, there was an obvious demonstration towards the rolls by Brexit supporters, which turned out to be nothing of the kind and there was an article within the Guardian suggesting a vegan sausage represented “an opportunity for a divided nation to heal itself”.
Then conspiracy theories emerged that Greggs had orchestrated every part.
Neil Knowles, the corporate’s Digital Model Communications Supervisor, denied any such manipulation: “You may by no means plan how the general public will react.
“While we all the time anticipated it to be enormous information we by no means anticipated the response to achieve as a lot momentum because it has completed. And whereas we love a superb conspiracy principle, we haven’t any relationship with Piers Morgan.”
Mr Knowles responded to Piers Morgan’s outrage with the tweet: “Oh hey Piers, we have been anticipating you”.
John Brown, founding father of the communications company Do not Cry Wolf calls the marketing campaign a “blueprint” for anybody in advertising, notably the intelligent approach that Greggs “stirred the pot”.
“A variety of firms can be afraid of offending the vegan foyer so it takes a little bit of guts to deal with the entire thing as a little bit of enjoyable – as an example with the iPhone theme. A variety of vegans do personal Apple merchandise – that is a neat contact,” he mentioned.
One other artful advertising trick additionally received admiration.
In Might it launched a video of a Greggs staff (masquerading as “Gregory & Gregory”) efficiently convincing foodies at a summer season meals truthful that its Oriental Rooster Sticky Rice Salad was haute delicacies. It attracted a modest 50,000 views however bought enthusiastic protection in nationwide and trade media.
The agency’s advertising efforts struck a unique chord at Christmas 2017 when its creation calendar put a sausage roll in a manger in pleasure of place.
Greggs apologised for putting the pastry in place of baby Jesus, with the three clever males gathered round it.
Christian Twitter customers mentioned the advert was disrespectful to their faith.
The success of the vegan roll comes too late to seem within the company’s latest trading update, which reveals how Greggs has been weathering the worst storm to hit the retail trade in dwelling reminiscence.
The corporate has a historical past of doing nicely when others are struggling. Instantly after the monetary disaster Greggs thrived as squeezed family budgets compelled shoppers to search for the bottom costs. The identical is true now.
Diane Wherle, Advertising and marketing and Insights Director at consultancy Springboard mentioned: “The shop does two issues nicely – it is costs are actually good, and the standard is dependable. There is not any the place else you will get a superb sandwich at that value.”
Greggs was not all the time so dynamic. It began as a household enterprise on the eve of the World Struggle Two with John Gregg promoting yeast and eggs and sweets on his bicycle to properties round Newcastle and it stayed small for a very long time.
By 1964, and the dying of the founder, it nonetheless solely employed 15 folks.
However the founder’s sons and managing director Sir Michael Darrington began a speedy enlargement shopping for out native competitors and floating the corporate on the London inventory market at 135p-a-share in 1984.
This week, after the buying and selling figures have been introduced, the shares rose to 1,443p.
Ms Wherle mentioned: “It has managed to cater to new markets with out being overly formidable. The builder can nonetheless come off the constructing website and get a sizzling pasty, however there are additionally salads – you’d by no means have gotten a salad in Greggs previously. The decor continues to be recognisable even when it has been upgraded and the older conventional clients nonetheless really feel snug.”