Warming up: Pub sales boosted by heatwave

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chief executive, Cent, Alcoholic beverage

The sweltering temperatures have lifted sales at a clutch of big brewery chains
The sweltering temperatures have lifted sales at a clutch of big brewery chains
The recent heatwave has brought some much needed good news for Britain’s pubs groups, with Marston’s, Fuller’s, Mitchells & Butlers and JD Wetherspoon all reporting a boost in summer sales after poor weather at the start of the year had initially dampened spirits.

Fuller’s has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the sunny spells, with like-for-likes for the 16 weeks to 20 July up 10 per cent and total sales across its managed pubs and hotels division rising by 12 per cent.

“After several weeks of barbeque summer weather, it is pleasing to see customers coming to our pubs and gardens to enjoy our food, drink and hospitality,” said the Group’s chief executive Simon Emeny.

“Of course, the boost to our fortunes that the sunshine brings is small in the context of our long term future. I am therefore equally pleased that the underlying business is well positioned, with pub investments performing strongly and our various long term initiatives, such as our entry into the craft lager and cider markets, showing promising progress.”

Marston's

Meanwhile Marston’s, owner of the Pitcher & Piano brand, has revealed an increase in like-for-like sales of 2.1 per cent for its destination and premium pubs, for the 42 weeks to 20 July. Like-for-likes over the 10 weeks to 20 July were 6 per cent ahead of last year, reflecting the positive effects of the good weather.

The group, which has an estate of around 2,100 tenanted, leased, franchised and managed pubs, saw its sales for the 42-week period driven by food, with a growth of 3.7 per cent, while wet-led sales were up 0.5 per cent on 2012. It’s brewing division also made good progress, with own-brewed beer volumes growing by 6 per cent.

''Our focus on value for money, quality and great service is generating strong growth in our destination pubs, with increased customer visits reflecting the appeal of our offers,” said Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay.

“The key elements of our strategy - the development of new-build pub restaurants; the increased licensee support and improved consumer offers facilitated by franchise agreements; and a brewing business​ focused on premium beers and local ales - are all on track."

M&B

Mitchells & Butlers, the UK's largest operator of managed restaurants and pubs with brands including Harvester, All Bar One and Browns, saw a more modest sales increase, with like-for-likes up by 1.6 per cent for the third quarter to 20 July. In the most recent nine weeks, this sales growth was slightly higher, at 2 per cent.

"While the cash in people's pockets remains tight, consumers continue to demand great service and excellent value when they eat and drink out,” said Alistair Darby, Mitchell & Butlers’ chief executive. “In this context, we are pleased with the progress that we are making through our business transformation programme to empower and develop our people, modernise our practices and delight our guests.”

JD Wetherspoon

And the weather also helped Wetherspoons, with like-for-like sales increasing by 3.5 per cent for the 11 weeks to 14 July, and total sales up 6.2 per cent – a ‘better than expected’ performance.

But, just as the recent storms have marked the end of the three-week heatwave, Britain’s weather will inevitable return to its unreliable state and, as JD Wetherspoon points out,  a number of underlying problems affecting the pub sector will need to be rectified for the sales growth to continue.  

“The late night levy, machine gaming duty and business rates taxes have increased, as well as pension costs,” reads the company’s financial statement. “Continued progress in sales will be required in order to overcome these costs.

“The biggest dangers to the pub industry are the VAT disparity between supermarkets and pubs and the continuing imposition of stealth taxes.”

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