Pubs says reopening sales are strong after dire six months

·2 min read
UK pubs have reopened as lockdown restrictions ease. Photo: Getty Images
UK pubs have reopened as lockdown restrictions ease. Photo: Getty Images

Pub owners Marston’s (MARS.L) and Mitchells and Butlers (MAB.L) may be reporting big losses for 2020 but their sales have been strong since the hospitality industry was allowed to reopen last month.

Marston's posted an underlying loss of £105m ($148.7m), up from a £31.1m loss last year, but its sales are now at 80% of pre-COVID levels and on track to break even. 

It said it made £2m additional investment in outdoor trading areas in autumn last year, and is well-positioned to benefit from strong demand as many Brits opt for staycations, given the restrictions around international travel.

It hopes further lifting of restrictions on 21 June will help normalise trading in the final quarter of 2021.

"Whilst still early days, trading has been encouraging since we were permitted to open our doors for outdoor trading last month," said CEO Ralph Findlay.

Shares in Marston's were down about 2% on Wednesday morning.

Marston's shares were lower on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
Marston's shares were lower on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

"Our recent strategic investment in additional outdoor trading areas ahead of reopening has enabled us to capitalise on the clear pent-up consumer demand for the pub. We look forward to all trading restrictions being removed next month which signals a return to some semblance of normality," he added.

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Meanwhile, M&B lost £200m, compared to a loss of £121m last year. Total revenue was £219m, down from £1,039m a year prior. However, sales are now back to 67%. 

M&B shares ticked 2% lower.

MAB stock fell on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
M&B's stock fell on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

The company said it is confident "of emerging in a position of strength as restrictions are eased" with almost all its sites now open, trading indoors and outdoors.

CEO Phil Urban said "we are now well placed to emerge in a strong competitive position and look forward to the removal of remaining trading restrictions in June such that the business is able to return again to full and sustainable profitability. 

A recent report has showed that the output of UK tourism and recreation (51.9) businesses rose for the first time since August 2020, following the reopening of outdoor dining at pubs and restaurants. Hospitality businesses saw a spike in forward bookings in anticipation of lockdown measures easing further.

But the pub industry has been ravaged by the pandemic. Statista data suggests UK’s food and beverage industry lost at least £25.66bn due to COVID-19.

To highlight the dire situation, Company Debt said UK adults will need to drink 124 pints each (or 976 packets of crisps for teetotallers) to prop the sector back up to pre-pandemic levels.

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