Fuller’s boosted by commuters returning to London as gov offers ‘close to zero support’ for pubs
The government has not issued any “meaningful support” for the pub sector, the boss of Fuller, Smith & Turner, told CityA.M., following the autumn budget.
Although the country now had a “very strong” Prime Minister and “very solid” Chancellor in place, the pub sector had been offered “close to zero support” amid a worsening economic environment, CEO Simon Emeny said.
While Fuller’s, which celebrated its 177-year birthday recently, had a business model that could withstand “shocks” such as the current climate, Emeny said he was concerned about the wider industry.
The chain was not seeing any impact of the cost of living crunch on consumer behaviour “at the moment.”
With a pub estate in the South of England and a relatively affluent customer base, the pub boss was optimistic that going to the pub would be an “affordable treat” for its customer base amid the tough winter ahead.
It said the “most discernible” factor had been the easing of a “post-Covid, stay-at-home hangover,” with after-work drinkers pushing up sales in cities once more.
The pub chain and former brewer revealed in financial results on Thursday that it had been boosted by commuters returning to cities after a protracted period of working from home.
The London-listed chain saw sales in central London jump 20 per cent in the seven weeks to mid-November – fuelling a nearly 70 per cent jump in the first six months of the year.
Revenue rose to £168.9m from £116.3m a year ago, as the pub chain prepares for an uptick in bookings over the Christmas period.
Bosses at Fuller, Smith & Turner are also expecting an uplift thanks to the World Cup, which will see punters flocking to pubs to watch the games.
Well on its way through its pandemic recovery, the company has declared an interim dividend of 4.68p, representing a 20 per cent increase on last year.
In a statement on Thursday morning, chief executive Emeny said: “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 per cent 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.”
Rising energy bills, as well as wage and food inflation, continues to weigh on the chain, however.
“Increasing interest rates continue to impact us and all businesses in the hospitality sector,” added Emeny.
“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.”