Pub group's sales fall by more than a quarter as new Coronavirus restrictions take their toll



JD Wetherspoon has revealed first quarter sales fell 27.6% and said it will burn through around £14m while its 756 pubs are forced to close during the second lockdown in England.

A statement from the group blamed “baffling and confusing” Coronavirus restrictions at a national and regional level across the UK, which led to a loss of £105.4m during the period.

Falling sales in the 15 weeks to 8 November followed the 10pm curfew which came into effect in late September, as well as rules mandating table service and the use of face masks.

Wetherspoon said that in addition to its pubs closing across England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, it also has 51 sites in Wales which have just emerged from a two-week lockdown, along with 64 in Scotland, which are “subject to an extremely onerous tier system”.

Chairman Tim Martin said: “For any pub or restaurant company trading in different parts of the UK, and for customers generally, the constantly changing national and local regulations, combined with geographical areas moving from one tier to another in the different jurisdictions, are baffling and confusing.

“The entire regulatory situation is a complete muddle,” he continued, accepting that the initial regulations, following reopening on 4 July, were based on solid scientific foundations of social distancing and hygiene.

“The benefits of the regulatory hyperactivity since then, including the imposition of a curfew, are questionable,” Martin added.

He stated that the group was unable to rule out job cuts in the future, as a result of its first annual loss in 36 years.

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Neil Shah, director of research for investment research business Edison Group said: “A combination of total lockdowns, early closing times and enforced at the table ordering, have all contributed to a 27.6% like for like decrease in sales for the first 15 weeks to 8 November for Wetherspoon.

The November lockdown [in England], which alone will cost the company £14, has meant that just 64 pubs in Scotland and 51 in Wales remain open amid 756 closures across the rest of the UK”

“Tim Martin, Wetherspoon chairman, rallied against some of the latest restrictions, describing the regulatory situation as a ‘muddle’. The inability to accurately forecast the next few months – traditionally busy as a result of the festive season – will inevitably cause some stress for the company.

“But having raised £137.7m and £48.3m through a share placing and CLBILS loan respectively, Wetherspoon will likely be confident it can mitigate immediate cash flow concerns and will be buoyed – along with the rest of the hospitality industry – about the promising vaccine developments”



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