Pubs update

Martin hails ales from small brewers as sales rise

Tim Martin says sales have risen as traditional ales prove popular

Pubs boss Tim Martin said sales have continued to recover from the pandemic, with demand for traditional ales returning, particularly from small brewers.

The chairman of J D Wetherspoon said the company had also received good feedback to a new menu.

In a trading update for the 13-week period to 28 April, Wetherspoon said like-for-like sales increased by 5.2% compared to the same period last year. Year-to-date (YTD) like-for-like sales increased by 8.3%. Total sales increased by 3.3% in the quarter and by 6.5% YTD.

The last week of the period last year included a bank holiday weekend, whereas this year the bank holiday was a week later. Excluding that week, like-for-like sales for the first 12 weeks of the period increased by 6%.

In the year-to-date, the company has opened two pubs and sold or surrendered to the landlord 18 pubs. Most of the pubs were smaller and older, or where the company has a second pub in reasonably close proximity. There was a net cash inflow of £6.8 million from the 18 disposals.

The company said 17 trading pubs remain on the market, or are under offer. The trading estate is now 809 pubs.

Mr Martin, said: “Sales in the period continued the steady recovery from the pandemic.

“Traditional ales, which were very slow in the aftermath of the lockdowns, are increasing momentum, with Abbot Ale, Ruddles Bitter and Doom Bar showing good growth, as indeed are ales from the many small and micro brewers with which we trade.

“The gods of fashion have smiled upon Guinness, previously consumed by blokes my age, but now widely adopted by younger generations.

“Also selling well among younger generations are Au Vodka from Swansea and XIX flavoured vodkas, the latter promoted by the hugely popular Sidemen.

“Wine has been on the comeback trail, with Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, from New Zealand, popular among Wetherspoon representatives of the chattering classes.

“Sales of Lavazza coffee are also increasing. Free refills are thought to be responsible for spontaneous exhibitions of breakdancing among retired customers.

“Our new menu, launched last week, has had a promising start, with some kindly reviewers comparing new dishes favourably with respected competitors.”

“The company expects profits in the current financial year to be towards the top of market expectations.”

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