Bury St Edmunds: Strong summer for Greene King as the heatwave, Andy Murray and Prince George keep the UK drinking

Old Speckeld Hen led the way among Greene King's beer brands in the 18 weeks to September 1.

Old Speckeld Hen led the way among Greene King's beer brands in the 18 weeks to September 1.

Pubs and brewing group Greene King today reported strong summer trading as the nation’s drinkers soaked up the sunshine.

Like-for-like sales within the Bury St Edmunds-based company’s key retail division during the 18 weeks to September 1 were 4.6% up on the same period last year.

This was despite strong comparatives a year ago when trade was boosted by the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and fans watching the Euro 2012 football championship on TV.

In a trading statement issued ahead of its annual general meeting today, Greene King said these factors had been offset by the better summer weather this year, together with a feel-good factor resulting from continued sporting success, including Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon and Ashes success for England’s cricketers, and the birth of Prince George.

Food and accommodation both increased their overall share of sales in the retail division, showing like-for-like growth of 5.7% and 6.0% respectively, against 3.7% like-for-like growth in drink sales.

Greene King said the strong growth in accommodation appeared to have been helped by an increase in customers taking their holidays in the UK.

The expansion of the retail division had also made further progress, with the estate reaching the 1,000 site mark with the opening of its latest Hungry Horse branded pub restaurant at Wallsend in North Tyneside on August 28.

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Within Pub Partners, the group’s tenanted, leased and franchised pubs division, like-for-like earnings were 2.7% up after 16 weeks of the current financial year, with average earnings per pub 5.8% ahead

And in its Brewing and Brands division, which includes the group’s brewing operation in Bury St Edmunds, core brand volume was 2.7% up at the 18-week stage, led by 7.9% growth for premium ale brand Old Speckled Hen, with total beer volume 1.5% up.

Greene King added in its statement: “Our balance sheet and cash generation remain strong and in line with our expectations.

“There appear to be cautious signs of optimism in terms of recent UK macro-economic improvements. In turn, we are seeing indications of growing consumer confidence, which is reflected in our strong start to the financial year.

“This performance has been helped by some one-off factors including the feel-good factor from continued British sporting success and the arrival of the royal baby, combined with much improved weather over the summer months.

“While the pace of the recovery remains uncertain, we believe that our strategy, tailored for the prevailing conditions, will continue to deliver improving returns, sustained earnings growth and attractive dividends for our shareholders. We look forward to another successful year.”