The pubco opened around 420 of its Sky Sport- and BT Sport-serviced pubs across the country to show the early morning matches during June and July. It said around £500,000 in sales could be attributed to this alone.
Stonegate chief executive Simon Longbottom said the final Test on 8 July gave the pubco its ninth biggest sales uplift for a sporting event this year. The Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko boxing match was the top sport event for driving sales at the group.
“There was a rising demand to show the matches as the tour progressed,” said Longbottom. “Customers wanted to be in a great atmosphere watching the British Lions slog it out in New Zealand.
“I think we keep getting surprised by how big these events get. Sporting events like the Lions tour happen so rarely, it doesn't matter what time it is, people want to be part of it.”
Around 20,000 pints of Guinness were purchased per Test at the pubco’s sites, with its premium breakfast and hot drinks volumes “massively in growth”.
“It says something about the rugby customer, but it was definitely an event that people also wanted to enjoy themselves at, and they spent accordingly,” Longbottom said.
“The spend per head was very strong, which made this [event] very attractive for us.”
Headwinds and costs
The Morning Advertiser asked Longbottom if events like this are the future for pubs as increasing pressures, such as operating costs rising above the 50% of turnover mark, continue to grow.
“Everyone will be looking at their gearing and their productivity, but here's a good example that opening more hours, giving customers what they want, is another way of attacking operating costs,” he said.
“Certainly by opening up businesses early and providing a great sporting environment we saw customers really excited, and joining us, and we've had a massive sales benefit."
He continued: “This business really works when we are growing the top line and also doing what our customers want us to do, which is an old fashioned notion, I know.”
Longbottom said the large sales uplift from the Lions tour showed that other sports outside football are “growing in significance”.
“With England's recent rugby success there is a lot of interest in the team at the moment, especially building up to the Rugby World Cup in Japan [in 2019],” he said.
“That will be another opportunity for peculiar opening times, which we believe we’ll be able to benefit from.”
Longbottom said he went to the pubco’s Walkabout venure in Temple, London, for the final Test, to find a queue of 100 people outside the door at 7.30am.
“We had 600 people in the pub watching the game which had an amazing atmosphere,” he said. “We like to think when we are showing sport, if you can't get a ticket to the game, the next place to watch it is in a Stonegate bar and pub.”