High street bakery chain Greggs has said it is in talks with staff over cutting employee hours "to minimise the risk of job losses" when the furlough scheme ends next month.

The business said it has completed a review of its trading operations as it looks to ensure its "employment costs reflect the estimated level of demand from November onwards".

It told investors its "immediate priority" is to complete the consultation and confirm the financial impact of the move when the consultation ends in November.

The update came as Greggs said that sales have picked up over the past month, as it continues its recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.

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The food-to-go specialist said it suffered a "challenging month" in August, as the closure of seated areas meant it was unable to benefit from Eat Out to Help Out.

High temperatures also made August a "difficult month" for trading, it said.

However, more people ate meals outside of their homes in September, which it believes helped to drive improvements.

Since reopening on July 2, its like-for-like sales averaged at 71.2% of its levels from 2019 for the 12-week period to September 26.

In the past month, covering the four weeks to September 26, like-for-like sales were at 76.1% of its levels from the same period last year, as trading improved.

Greggs said its digital business is "developing quickly" after increased investment during the lockdown period, partnering with food delivery operator Just Eat.

In a statement, Newcastle-based Greggs said: "The outlook for trading remains uncertain, with rising Covid-19 infection rates leading to increasing risks of supply chain interruption and further restrictions on customer activities out of the home.

"In these challenging conditions our teams continue to work hard and have proven our ability to operate with social distancing and adapt to new digital channels."

Hotel Chocolat has reported higher sales for the past year, despite enforced store closures hammering revenues for the key Easter period.

The company said its pre-tax profits slid by 83% to £2.4 million for the year to June 28, compared with the same period last year.

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It said profits were "slightly ahead of expectations", despite taking a hit from the impact of the pandemic.

Group revenues grew by 3% to £136 million, despite its UK stores being shut for about 12 weeks of the year.

In the first half, sales increased by 14% to £92 million, while sales slipped by 14% to £45 million in the second half after stores closed their doors.

The retailer, which runs 130 stores, told investors that trading has been "in line" with expectations over the first 12 weeks of the new financial year.

Online sales demand is about 150% higher than the same period last year, after customers turned further towards home deliveries during the pandemic.

Hotel Chocolat's board said they believe the business is "well positioned to navigate existing and potential Covid-19 challenges".

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive, said: "Whilst uncertainty will continue for all of us in the coming year, our pipeline of potential growth opportunities has never been stronger."

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He added: "We are working hard to anticipate potential trading scenarios for the year ahead and are planning prudently to be ready to adapt quickly and effectively as the situation evolves.

"To achieve this, we have invested in our ability to increase production and expand our supply chain capacity, as well as strengthen the leadership team to ensure a continued focus on product innovation, e-commerce, supply chain and sustainability.

"I am confident that the strategic progress we have achieved over the past year will build a stronger business in the medium-term with greater growth, profitability and brand appeal."

Sofa chain ScS has revealed it swung to an annual loss due to the coronavirus lockdown, but cheered a surge in sales as Britons splash out on their homes amid the pandemic.

The group posted statutory losses of £3.1 million for the year to July 25 against profits of £14.3 million the previous year as revenues tumbled by a fifth after lockdown forced the temporary closure of all 100 stores.

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It said full-year losses totalled £1.4 million on an underlying comparable basis.

Pent-up demand saw sales almost double - up 92.2% - in the last nine weeks of the year after stores reopened at the end of May, which limited the decline in overall annual orders to 5.9%.

ScS said it was also "encouraged" by recent trading, with orders jumping by a better-than-expected 45.8% on a like-for-like basis over the first nine weeks of the new financial year.

It joined rival DFS in linking recent trading to a trend for Britons to prioritise spending on their homes during the crisis.

Shares fell 5% after the results, with ScS adding a note of caution ahead of its peak autumn trading season.

David Knight, chief executive of ScS, said: "We are delighted with the strong trading since the start of the new financial year.

"However, we are now entering our key autumn trading period and it remains difficult to predict the potential impact of the increased economic uncertainty, including the cessation of the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the end of October."

ScS said it had invested heavily in its online service, with internet sales rising 13.6% to £19.1 million in the year.

Over April and May, online orders were up 78% as locked-down shoppers switched to the internet, it added.

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