Greene King cheers summer sales growth

Sales at pubs chain Greene King were boosted by warm weather and World Cup fever over the summer, rising almost 3 per cent.

Greene King, which owns Dunbar-based Belhaven brewery, sold 3.7 million pints of beer during England World Cup games this summer. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Greene King, which owns Dunbar-based brewery Belhaven, said “positive momentum” throughout the summer helped book a rise of 2.8 per cent in like-for-like sales for the 18 weeks to 2 September.

In a trading update, the group cited the football World Cup and the hot weather as key drivers of growth, as sales grew 3.2 per cent over the last ten weeks.

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It said: “This strong performance was underpinned by the ongoing benefits from our sales driving investment to further improve our value, service and quality, and boosted by the weather and a successful World Cup.”

A total of 3.7 million pints of beer were sold during England’s seven matches throughout the tournament and the group’s comparable sales on the day of England’s semi-final jumped by 61 per cent.

Greene King’s local pubs traded particularly well, with like-for-like sales up 5.5 per cent, while total beer volumes in its Brewing & Brands division were up 4 per cent.

The latest figures will come as a welcome relief to the pub group, after it posted a drop in profits amid “unprecedented” cost rises for the year to 29 April.

In the update, it attributed a 0.4 per cent drop in net profit for its Pub Partners unit to cost pressures that it expects to balance out over the year.

Despite the group’s success over the summer months, it remains committed to disposing of between 100 and 110 pubs this year, although it plans to open around nine new establishments.

The firm said its “cost mitigation programme” is on track to help offset cost inflation of some £45 million to £50m and it is making “good progress” with its refinancing programme to reduce the cost of debt.

“We continue to focus on profitably driving top line growth, developing a more streamlined and efficient organisation and further strengthening our capital structure to deliver long-term value creation for our shareholders,” the firm said.

Greg Johnson, travel and leisure equity researcher at Shore Capital, said: “Greene King has issued a positive update with the robust trading seen at the start of the current financial year having continued in the following ten weeks.” He added the results were “encouraging”, with performance driven “primarily by wet-led pubs” given the favourable summer conditions.

At the firm’s annual general meeting all proposals were passed with an overwhelming majority. The group employs around 39,000 people and at the end of the financial year operated 2,855 pubs, restaurants and hotels.