Strong Christmas sales boost pub groups

A successful Christmas period could lead to further growth and new job opportunities in the pub and bar sector

While many businesses wind down over Christmas, the festive period is usually one of the busiest times for the year for the hospitality industry.

Pubs and bars tend to benefit in particular, and it's not unusual to see a host of temporary bar vacancies and pub jobs become available in the run up to Christmas.

And with early signs indicating that pubs enjoyed a bumper Christmas boost this winter, some of these could even turn into permanent positions.

This week has seen two major pub groups – Spirit Pub Company and Greene King – both announce strong sales figures for the latter stages of 2012, helping to increase profits and fuel growth plans.

In its interim management statement for the 36 weeks to January 6th brewer and pub owner Greene King revealed it enjoyed like-for-like sales growth at its pubs of 3.7 per cent during the period, driven by record Christmas bookings and Christmas Day spending.

"Our strong momentum has been maintained over the last six weeks," said Rooney Anand, Greene King chief executive.

"We achieved record sales through Christmas and the New Year as our teams once again delivered excellent value, service and quality to our customers.

"We achieved record Christmas Day sales of £2.7 million, up 6.8 per cent, and during the whole of December, we sold 448,000 Christmas meals, another record for Greene King."

On the back of strong sales figures, Greene King has added 22 sites to its estate so far in this financial year, helping to create numerous new pub jobs.

Meanwhile, in its results covering the 20 weeks to the 5th of January, Spirit, which has an estate of more than 1,200 pubs nationwide as well as over 400 leased pubs, recorded like-for-like sales growth of 2.3 per cent over the corresponding period last year.

It said that although trading conditions from October through to mid December were "very challenging" due to the ongoing wet weather, strong Christmas trading had helped to boost its overall figures for the period with like-for-like sales up five per cent in the three weeks to January 5th.

"We have made a solid start to the year in what remain challenging trading conditions as our guests remain under considerable financial pressure," said Mike Tye, Spirit's chief executive.

"Our managed estate performance remains ahead of the market and we continue to focus on evolving our brands, offers and infrastructure to bring great value and choice to our guests."

The group said it is also seeing improving trends among its leased pubs and has invested in eight new franchise venues.

It added that for these new premises "whilst it is still early days, initial results are encouraging".

The success of the Christmas period capped off what has been a busy year for the UK's pub industry, with events such as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics also helping to boost the sector.

This was touched upon by Jonathan Neame, chairman of the British Beer and Pub Association, at a recent annual industry event at the House of Commons.

"From the Diamond Jubilee to our sporting success, beer and pubs have been at the heart of every local celebration up and down the land," he said.

"British hospitality has been on show throughout the summer, particularly during the Olympics and, dare one say, it exceeded our own expectations for the warmth and welcome we have provided."

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