Pub group toasts return to pre-pandemic levels

Andrew Andrea
X The Business Desk

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Pub group Marstons signalled a strong recovery after coronavirus restrictions were lifted, saying sales in the most recent quarter rose above pre-pandemic levels.

The Wolverhampton-based group said that for the most recent quarter from 25 July to 2 October, it saw a return to growth over 2019, with sales 2% higher across managed and franchised pubs.

Overall, trading since 12 April has been at 94% of 2019 levels which includes the benefit of the temporary VAT reduction on food and non-alcoholic drink sales.

The group said its pubs were open for only 54% of the total trading days. When they were open, they operated under significant trading restrictions ranging from outdoor only and table service only, to the different tier systems across the UK.

Total pub sales were £402m for the year, representing 78% of last year, reflecting the significant disruption to trading from the pandemic.

Marstons said: “Having invested £2m in “Inside-Out” schemes in Autumn/Winter 2020, we were able to open c70% of our pubs under outdoor trading restrictions and the group’s entire estate of c1,500 pubs has been open since 17 May.”

Shares in Marstons are currently up 1.17% to 73.70p, a rise of around 58% in the past year when the share price was 46.40p.

Andrew Andrea, chief executive, said: “We are delighted to be fully open again since trading restrictions were lifted in July. We are encouraged by the trading momentum which we have experienced since April and pleased to be trading robustly and above 2019 levels again. Our business benefits from an optimally balanced pub estate of food and wet led pubs that are predominately suburban, community based and well located for the changes in consumer behaviour that we are seeing.

“However, we are mindful of consumer confidence in the short term and the challenges impacting the economy and our industry. Government messaging will remain a key factor in determining sentiment.

“Looking ahead, we are now keenly focused on our strategy of delivering exceptional experiences for our guests. We will continue to invest in our teams and pubs as we strive to meet our clear goals.”