Marston’s misses out on bountiful Christmas but signs show consumer confidence ‘rebuilding’
Pub operator Marston’s has joined other hospitality chains in reporting a disappointing Christmas trading period, with sales dipping.
In a trading update for the 16 weeks to 12 January 2022, total like-for-like sales were down 3.9 per cent compared to the 2019 financial year. This was a reflection of a battering to sales after the Omicron Covid variant emerged.
The operator reported encouraging trading momentum in the first eight weeks to 27 November, before Covid restrictions returned. Like-for-like sales were up 1.3 per cent.
In the last eight weeks, sales were down 8.8 per cent, thanks to government messaging to work from home to curb the spread of the virus.
Punters also opted for boozy outings when they did go out, with drink sales outperforming food sales.
However, the operator noted that in the five-week period of December, like-for-like sales compared to the market outside the M25 were one per cent ahead of the market and total sales were five per cent ahead.
The group generated positive cash inflow despite a net outflow of £8m for one-off payments including duty and VAT.
Pub chain boss Andrew Andrea said he was optimistic that consumer confidence was returning ahead of the full easing of plan B measures introduced last year.
Andrea said: “While the emergence of the Omicron variant and subsequent Government guidance temporarily impacted consumer sentiment, we remain confident that the strong trading momentum which we were experiencing prior to that will resume.”
He welcomed plans to ease restrictions in Scotland and Wales, which were subject to tougher restrictions than England over the festive period.
The easing of measures across the country would allow “some semblance of normalised trading patterns to return,” Andrea said.
He added: “Indeed, there is growing evidence over the most recent of weeks of the New Year that consumer confidence is rebuilding, and guests are returning to our pubs in greater numbers, which is encouraging.”