Pub company Fuller’s has welcomed “strong” Christmas bookings adding that it expects an “uplift” from customers watching the World Cup.
However, the company, which owns 386 pubs and inns, also emphasized increased pressure from rising energy bills, food and wage costs and rising interest rates, citing that it had seen a £1.4 million hit to sales over the past half year as a result of Tube and train strikes.
Revenue grew to £168.9mln in the 26 weeks to 24 September 2022 from £116.3mln in the corresponding period last year, the company said in its earnings release.
Like-for-like sales rose by 20%, with Central London sales surging 67% as workers went back to the office and international tourists returned to the capital.
Chief Executive Simon Emeny said:
“Following on from a good first half performance, we have maintained our forward momentum in the seven weeks post the period end, with like for like sales up by 13% against the same period last year. As commuters return to their offices and international tourists once again visit the Capital, our Central London and City sites have seen like for like sales for the first seven weeks of the second half rise by 20% against the prior year, despite the impact of tube and train strikes.
“While we look forward to our first Christmas free of restrictions for three years, and the added bonus of a FIFA World Cup, we are trading in an increasingly challenging environment. Cost pressures from energy bills, wage and food inflation, and increasing interest rates continue to impact us and all businesses in the hospitality sector. Our teams are working hard to manage these pressures, while ensuring we continue to deliver an outstanding experience for our customers.
“We are a long-term business, with excellent foundations both in terms of the strength of our Balance Sheet and our predominately freehold estate, and we have the talent, desire and drive to deliver future growth and success.”
He added: “Looking forward over the next 12 months it’s all about gaining market share. And doing what we do better and better. However tough the environment is, our plan will be to grow market share.”
In terms of consumer behaviour, he said: “We’ve seen our second year in a row of significant growth in cocktails, the growth in premium products and craft beer has also continued. You wouldn’t be looking at our sales data and detecting a significant downward shift in consumer behaviour. We’re not seeing customers lose their desire for the more exotic and expensive products at the bar.”