The new chief executive at Goals Soccer Centres yesterday asserted that the turnaround at the business is well underway as the football pitch operator prepares to deepen its US footprint.
Mark Jones – who joined the company in July from Rank Group – said although it was early days in the recovery, a return to like-for-like growth in the first 11 weeks of the second half of 2016 had been “very encouraging”.
It came as the East Kilbride-headquartered group’s boss hailed what he said was a creditable performance in the six months to end-June unveiled yesterday, even though both sales and profits continued to fall after a “horrendous” second half of 2015.
An independent business review followed and Jones said everyone across the business was now united behind the strategy to put Goals Soccer Centres back on track.
Proceeds from a £16.75 million placing have been used to invest in modernisation of the company’s 46 sites in the UK with better pitches and lighting, Jones said.
Goals said more has been spent on its centres in the past three months than over the past decade and that initial feedback from current and lapsed customers has been “extremely positive”.
Like-for-like sales fell by 2 per cent to £17m in the first half after being down 11.4 per cent a year ago. Underlying pre-tax profits were 15 per cent down at £3.8m although have now stabilised in line with levels from the second half of last year.
Sales at the company’s US site in California dipped slightly in the period but Jones said steps had been taken to return it to growth and he remained confident of the long term potential of the US model. Construction of a second US site at Pomona in Los Angeles is underway and is expected to open in December.
The company said it has a solid pipeline of land options for future US openings depending on the performance of the new site.
Although Goals harbours ambitions to break into Asia, particularly China, the current focus remains on the UK and US businesses. It is also working on a new “Clubhouse 2020” concept for its UK sites to turn them more into leisure destinations rather than solely football businesses, although Jones said he had slowed that process since he took over to make sure that the right model was developed. The concept will be trialed at three sites in England in the first quarter of 2017.
Paul Hickman, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, said the interim results showed that the strategic plan under the new boss seemed to be starting to work.
“While shares are still around 30 per cent down on the level of a year ago, conditions have arguably been reset for a re-rating,” Hickman said.
In addition to Jones joining, a raft of recent non-executive appointments at Goals have included Inter Milan FC boss Michael Bolingbroke.