Wetherspoon’s boss Tim Martin warns growth hard to match

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Pub group JD Wetherspoon has reported solid sales growth in the three months leading up to January 21 with total sales up 4.3 per cent on the year before.

Like-for-like sales at the bargain boozer jumped up 6 per cent and it said the better-than-expected sales growth meant financial year-to-date pre-tax profits were ‘slightly ahead’ of forecasts.

The strong figures were similar again for the 25 week period up to January 21 with like-for-like and total sales up six per cent and 4.3 per cent respectively.

While sales were strong for the pub group over the key Christmas period, it warned such strong performance would be difficult to match.

While sales were strong for the pub group over the key Christmas period, it warned such strong performance would be difficult to match.

However, the firm warned that it was unlikely to keep up the pace.

‘Similar outperformance in the second half will be more difficult to achieve,’ the group said in a trading update published this morning.

Wetherspoon’s boss Tim Martin used the update as a platform to launch fresh criticism of two trade bodies over their Brexit comments.

He accused the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) of publishing ‘factually incorrect scare stories’ over their assertion that food prices will likely rise in the wake of Brexit.

‘By refusing to acknowledge the fact that food prices will be reduced, post Brexit, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal and Parliament votes to eliminate taxes which are currently imposed on non-EU food imports, the CBI and the BRC are trying to fool the public and MPs and bringing business into disrepute,’ Martin said. 

‘These factually incorrect scare stories seem to be designed to convince the public that a deal is necessary to avoid a ‘cliff edge’.’

Martin, a vocal supporter of Brexit, added ‘the cliff edge is a myth’.

‘Provided that Parliament takes sensible steps, such as the elimination of food taxes, the public will benefit from lower food prices, from regained fishing rights and from savings of about £200 million per week of EU contributions,’ he said.

Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin often uses the group's trading updates to launch scathing attacks on pro-remainers - claiming they issue 'factually incorrect' stories to scare the public

Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin often uses the group's trading updates to launch scathing attacks on pro-remainers - claiming they issue 'factually incorrect' stories to scare the public

Wetherspoon’s boss Tim Martin often uses the group’s trading updates to launch scathing attacks on pro-remainers – claiming they issue ‘factually incorrect’ stories to scare the public

As part of its update, JD Wetherspoon said it had opened three new pubs but sold off 10, with plans under way to open approximately 10 pubs by the end of the financial year.

The pub group assured that it ‘remains in a sound financial position,’ though year-end net debt is expected to be around £30 million higher than it was at the end of the last financial year.

Neil Wilson of ETX Capital said higher labour costs, business rates and the sugar tax were all key risks ahead for the group.

‘There is also some doubts about whether Wetherspoon will be able to capitalise fully on the World Cup in the summer, with Martin noting there is ‘some uncertainty as to the effects on our business’,’ he added.

‘The pub chain usually keeps TV football off its premises and in 2014 reported weaker sales over the course of the tournament.’

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