Cost of living: UK pub giant with 20 Scottish sites says consumers 'want to keep up their normal socialising'

Marston’s, the pub and hotel chain with about 20 sites in Scotland, said strong drink sales have underpinned “encouraging” trading despite the inflationary pressures facing customers.

The business, which operates 1,468 pubs and has some 12,000 workers, said people are still visiting community pubs and remains optimistic for the crucial important winter period, which will include the 2022 World Cup.

Chief executive Andrew Andrea said the business, which has been growing its footprint north of the Border in recent years, was yet to see a change in behaviour from punters due to the cost of living.

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“We are currently not seeing any discernible change in behaviour and that momentum is continuing. People are most likely to be assessing their big-ticket spending and still want to keep up their normal socialising, like going to the pub,” he said.

“We are in a good position going into the winter and obviously have both the World Cup and first Christmas without restrictions for three years so there is no reason why we can’t see year-on-year growth.”

The group revealed that like-for-like sales dipped 1 per cent over the year to October 1, compared with pre-pandemic levels. It said this was particularly impacted by the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in December and January.

Sales over the last ten weeks of the year - from July 24 to October 1 - were up 4 per cent year-on-year and 3 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The group said growth was “predominantly driven by drink sales”, with food sales weaker amid high summer temperatures.

The historic Marston's business has more than 1,400 pubs and some 12,000 workers across the UK. Picture: Alex Styles Photography

“People didn’t want a carvery in 35 degree heat but any negative impact in food was easily offset by strong drink trade,” Andrea added.

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Greg Johnson, an analyst at brokerage Shore Capital, who has a buy recommendation on the stock, noted: “Marston’s has issued a trading update which, despite the challenging consumer backdrop, showed an encouraging improvement in trading, further debt reduction and appears consistent with consensus estimates.

“The statement highlights that the level of customer demand remains encouraging and is evidence that the investment in the estate and strategy is delivering.”

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