Record Xmas Day provides cheer to Belhaven-owner Greene King

Greene King, the pubs and brewing group that owns the 300-year-old Belhaven Brewery in East Lothian, has raised a glass to strong festive trading including a record Christmas Day.

The Suffolk-based group acquired Dunbar-based Belhaven in 2005 and recently unveiled big plans to celebrate its 300th anniversary. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Publishing a trading update, the owner of the Hungry Horse and Chef & Brewer brands said like-for-like sales in its managed pubs jumped 10.9 per cent in the two weeks to 6 January.

It notched up another record on Christmas Day, with sales of £7.7 million, up from £7.6m in 2017, as more Britons chose to eat out for their festive lunch.

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The Suffolk-based group, which acquired Dunbar-based Belhaven in 2005 and recently unveiled big plans to celebrate its 300th anniversary, also said it saw all sales categories achieve like-for-like sales growth over the key six-week festive period.

Greene King said the solid Christmas trading performance helped sales rise 3.2 per cent for the 36 weeks to 6 January.

However, its franchise-run pub partners arm saw like-for-like net profits dip about 1 per cent, while total beer sales by volume in brewing and brands were up 1.8 per cent and own-brewed sales volumes were down 2.3 per cent.

The group told investors: “While the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit may still have an impact on consumer confidence and spending during the year, we remain confident of our outlook for the financial year.

“We remain focused on our strategic priorities of driving profitable sales growth, developing a more streamlined and efficient organisation, and further strengthening and improving the flexibility of our capital structure to deliver long-term value for our shareholders.”

Alasdair Ronald, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin Scotland, said: “This latest update from Greene King suggests there was some Christmas cheer for the company.

“Like-for-like sales were up 10.9 per cent over the two weeks covering the festive period – Christmas day sales were a record £7.7m – and it continues to trade ahead of the wider sector.

“That said, while Greene King’s management is confident about the months ahead, there are still challenges in its operating environment and profits are under pressure due to rising wage, food, business rates and energy costs – not to mention Brexit’s effect on consumer confidence.”

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, noted: “A bumper Christmas period has provided a welcome boost to sales for Greene King. The recent trend for eating out on Christmas Day seems to have continued again this year.

“It’s worth noting that cost inflation means profit growth may not keep pace with sales this year,” he added.