Greene King hails record Christmas Day trading

Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King.

Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King. - Credit: Archant

Pubs and brewing group Greene King said today that like-for-like sales for its core retail business were up 2.0% over Christmas and New Year – despite a Hogmanay hangover from tougher drink-drive laws in Scotland.

The Bury St Edmunds-based group said the like-for-like performance over the past six weeks had been in line with last year, despite tough comparatives, leaving the figure for the 36 weeks of its financial year so far, up to January 11, 0.6% ahead.

Chief executive Rooney Anand said: “Sales were encouraging in our retail business over the important two weeks covering Christmas and the New Year, despite a very tough comparative from last year and softer trading in Scotland, following the introduction of tougher drink-driving laws.

“Outside of those weeks, trading was more volatile, with the weeks before Christmas slightly down on the previous year and soft trading since the New Year.”

Mr Anand added that this performance had been achieved in “a continued challenging environment”, as indicated by the most recent Greene King Leisure Tracker survey which showed an 8% year-on-year fall in household leisure spending in November.

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Total sales at Greene King Retail, the group’s managed pubs division, were up 5.9% after 36 weeks. The like-for-like performance in the last six weeks was was flat, compared with a 5.0% increase a year ago, despite slower trading in Scotland due to a combination of the lower drink-driving limit and poorer weather.

Excluding Scotland, Greene King said retail like-for-like sales were up 0.6% in the last six weeks.

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The 2.0% increase over the two weeks of Christmas and the New Year compared with growth of 6.4% in the same period last year.

Greene King said it received a record 780,000 Christmas bookings, up 7.0%, with like-for-like growth of 3.5%, resulting in record retail sales of £3.4million on Christmas Day.

The group added that like-for-like net income at Pub Partners, its leased and managed pubs division, was 2.8% up after 36 weeks.

“All the key licensee health measures remain strong and anecdotal evidence from licensees has been positive regarding festive trading, particularly around food sales,” it said.

Greene King, a member of the EADT/EDP Top100 listing of the 100 largest companies in Suffolk and Norfolk, added that its Brewing & Brands division, including its brewing operations in Bury and at Dunbar, in Scotland, saw a 5.2% increase in own-brewed volumes over the first 36 weeks, with growth of 3.7% in the last six weeks.

“Growth continues to be driven by our take home and export channels, and by Old Speckled Hen, the UK’s leading premium ale brand,” it added.

Mr Anand also today welcomed last week’s shareholder votes which approved Greene King’s acquisition of the Spirit Pub Company, which will increase its pub estate from around 1,900 at present to more than 3,000.

He said: “This will create the UK’s leading managed pub company and deliver significant shareholder value through material synergy generation and anticipated earnings accretion.

“The exact timing of the completion of the deal remains uncertain but we are working closely with the Competition and Markets Authority and expect the deal to complete by the end of the first half of 2015.”

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