Total sales in the period grew by 6.2%, which the managed pub company described as a “better than expected performance”. In the year to date (50 weeks to 14 July 2013), like-for-like sales increased by 6%, and total sales increased by 9.2%.
Operating margin was 9.5% in the 11 weeks (including some one-off benefits) and 8.7% in the year-to-date (50 weeks to 14 July). “We view the year-to-date margin as a possible indicator for the future, if we were to achieve reasonable sales growth,” Wetherspoons said.
The company has opened 29 new pubs and sold three since the start of the financial year, and says it plans to open 30 next financial year.
“In our final results announcement, we intend to provide an update on any impairment and onerous lease provisions,” it said.
Wetherspoons added: “As previously indicated, the company warmly welcomes the reduction in beer duty announced in the March budget (but overall excise duty increased). However, the late night levy, machine gaming duty and business rates taxes have increased, as well as pension costs.
“Continued progress in sales will be required in order to overcome these costs. The biggest dangers to the pub industry are the VAT disparity between supermarkets and pubs and the continuing imposition of stealth taxes.
“We are now on track to achieve a slightly better outcome (before any exceptional items) for the current financial year than previously anticipated.”
Wetherspoons said that in the next financial year, it is likely to incur further tax and regulation increases of excise duty (c£2.5m), business rates (c£2m), machine gaming duty (c£2m) and increased pension contributions (c£1.5m).