Liberation Group chief hails ‘sector-leading’ performance

By Gary Lloyd contact

- Last updated on GMT

Proud: CEO Jonathan Lawson praised the teams for dealing with the challenges of the past year
Proud: CEO Jonathan Lawson praised the teams for dealing with the challenges of the past year

Related tags: Finance, Multi-site pub operators, Pubco + head office

Channel Islands and West Country-based brewer and operator Liberation Group has announced its managed UK pubs have seen like-for-like (lfl) sales grow 18.6% for the final three quarters of its financial year ended 29 January 2022, versus the same period in 2019.

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The company said this performance was driven by the 13-week period to 28 August 2021 when its UK managed pubs achieved a 26% growth on the same weeks in 2019. Even during December 2021 when the Omicron variant of Covid impacted consumer demand, the UK lfl managed division achieved 4% sales growth on 2019.

Meanwhile, its Channel Islands managed pubs lfl sales dropped 12.6% versus pre-Covid figures – a period when its town-based pubs were subject to more work-from-home guidance and a drop in tourist numbers.

Proud of teams

Liberation Group chief executive Jonathan Lawson said: “Our teams should be incredibly proud of the way they dealt with the challenges posed last year and for the strong results they have been able to deliver. Last year, we once again demonstrated the quality and passion of our people, which combined brilliantly with the inherent strengths of our business and its combination of pubs, brewing and wholesale drinks across the south-west of England and the Channel Islands.

“Managed UK pubs delivering an 18% lfl lift between May 2021 and January 2022 (compared to 2019) is a sector-leading performance and has reinforced our focus on premium food-led pubs, with a fast-growing accommodation business, which is now 13% of our UK managed revenue.

“Our Butcombe Brewing volumes were only slightly down last year on 2019, which is a remarkable performance and demonstrated the strengths of our brewing brands, the loyalty of our customers and the mixed channels of distribution across the on and off-trade, added to by our incredibly successful packaging plant in Bridgwater.”

Lockdown challenges

Lawson continued: “In the Channel Islands, we likewise overcame the challenges of lockdowns and restrictions to deliver a robust and profitable performance and implemented some exciting changes that will deliver growth on drinks distribution over the coming years.

“The new financial year has started strongly with record sales and profitability being delivered in the first four months of the year and it was wonderful for the managed pub business to achieve a hat trick at this year’s Publican Awards​ in March. Trade has been particularly strong in the UK and Guernsey and a clear recovery is visible in Jersey thanks to the return of tourism and an increase in footfall from the financial district in St Helier.

“Our new range of exciting keg ales and lagers is driving this growth and it is heartening to see the strong recovery in cask led by Butcombe Original.”

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