Sales growth continues to slow at Wetherspoons

British pub chain JD Wetherspoon said sales growth had continued to slow in its third quarter, although under pressure margins had improved despite recent cut-price initiatives.

The company, which has grown to over 900 pubs on demand for its cheap food and drinks menus, said sales at pubs open over a year had risen 1.7 per cent in the 13 weeks to April 26, continuing a slowing trend seen in its first half.

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Like-for-like sales growth of 6.3 per cent in its first quarter had already slowed to 2.7 per cent in its second quarter due to increasing competition from supermarkets and restaurants. The group’s third-quarter operating margin of 7.5 per cent was down on a year ago but was an improvement on the 7.4 per cent posted at the half-year. Analysts had expected it to weaken further after Wetherspoons launched cut-price coffee and breakfast deals in March to help boost sales. Wetherspoons narrowed its operating margin expectations for the year to a range of 7.3 per cent to 7.7 per cent and said its full-year profit outlook remained unchanged. The firm is on average expected to post a 1.7 per cent fall in profit for the year to July of £78m.