JDW lfl sales up 11% for first quarter versus pre-Covid

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Improved outcome likely: JDW chair Tim Martin explained sales have risen and other costs are expected to reduce
Improved outcome likely: JDW chair Tim Martin explained sales have risen and other costs are expected to reduce

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

JD Wetherspoon (JDW) has announced like-for-like (lfl) sales for the first quarter of its financial year have risen by 11% versus the same period pre-Covid.

It added year-to-date (YTD) sales increased by 7.4% compared to the last full financial year (FY) ended 28 July 2019.

Compared to FY22, like-for-like sales increased by 11.5% in the fourth quarter to date and by 12.9% YTD.

In FY23, the company has opened three pubs and sold, closed or surrendered to the landlord 28 pubs. Some 15 of these pubs were leasehold sites, where the lease had expired or where the company had exercised a ‘break clause’ in the lease.

In respect of 12 of these 15 leasehold pubs, the company had another pub nearby – within a radius of about one mile.

As regards the remaining 13 pubs, 11 of these also had another JDW pub nearby.

JDW estate stands at 827 pubs

There was a net cash inflow to JDW of £6.5m from the 28 disposals, which the pubco said was a modest amount given some reports that the business was exiting sites only as “money-making exercise”.

Meanwhile, 22 pubs remain on the market or are under offer and JDW currently has a trading estate of 827 pubs.

As of 9 July 2023, net debt was £688m, approximately £114m lower reported in its interim results for FY20, immediately before the pandemic. Since then, the company has invested £116m in new pubs, £82m in freehold reversions and has raised equity of approximately £240m.

JDW chairman Tim Martin said: “The company expects profits in the current financial year to be in line with market expectations.

“As a result of a continued improvement in sales and a slightly reduced expectation for cost increases, for example, energy costs, the company anticipates an improved outcome for the next financial year, and anticipates an outcome for the first half of FY24 approximately in line with the second half of FY23.”

Expecting to meet predictions

Management consulting company Begbies Traynor said the cheaper prices offered at JDW sites is the tonic UK drinkers want and it is benefiting the business.

Begbies Traynor partner Julie Palmer said: “Squeezed consumers cutting back might mean trouble for many businesses but Wetherspoon doesn’t seem to be one of them.

“Sales are up on pre-pandemic levels and the company is expecting to meet City expectations for an annual profit, reversing last year’s loss.

“In a cost-of-living crisis with consumers seeking value, Wetherspoon is likely to benefit as its 800-plus pubs knock out beer and wine at prices that rivals just can’t seem to match.

“What Mr Martin’s research could also show is that consumers across the board are feeling the strain but still want a drink or two and aren’t bothered where as long as the beer is cheap – and that’s what Wetherspoon’s is known for.”

JDW’s preliminary results are due to be released on 6 October 2023.

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