Marston’s up despite fears over Budget

PUB operator Marston’s reported solid trading yesterday despite a tough period for the leisure sector and said it was looking ahead to a strong 2012.

Like for like sales over the last 23 weeks were up 3.5 per cent on last year at the British brewer – which has 2,150 outlets across the country – as food sales grew 3.9 per cent and drink sales rose 3.4 per cent.

Although this is a slight decline on the five per cent Marston’s was up over the Christmas and New Year period, it remains significantly ahead of the industry, which fell 2.1 per cent in January and 3.7 per cent in February according to the Peach Tracker which monitors sales of eating and drinking out.

But pub operators remain on unsteady footing ahead of next week’s Budget which could add 10p or more to the price of a pint.

Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay told City A.M., “The beer duty escalator, which rises tax by two per cent over and above inflation, is hugely damaging to the pub sector.

“It’s simply staggering how much they’re taking out of the pub sector and it’s not sustainable in the long run. The situation can’t afford to get any worse.”

But the pub and bar operator is increasing its rate of investment, planning to open 25 new pubs this year compared to 19 last year and 15 in 2010.

The Euro 2012 championship and the Queen’s Jubilee are expected to boost sales over the summer – “but this also depends on the sunshine and how well England’s football team does,” Findlay told City A.M.

Marston’s, whose rivals include Mitchells & Butlers, Greene King and JD Wetherspoon, said sales of its own-brewed beer, which includes Pedigree and Hobgoblin beer, were up two per cent.