Wetherspoon posts rise in sales but warns that costs have risen

JD Wetherspoon has posted rising first-quarter sales but warned that its costs have risen significantly over the last year.

Wetherspoons in Leeds

The pubs chain said like-for-like sales rose 6.1 per cent in the 13 weeks to October 29, with total sales growing 4.3 per cent.

But chairman Tim Martin pointed to increased labour costs, business rates, utilities and sugar taxes weighing on the firm.

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He said: “Although it is only a short period, the company has had a positive start to the year.

“Sales have continued at a slightly higher-than-expected level since we last reported on 15 September.

“Costs, as many pub and restaurant companies have indicated, have been significantly higher than last year, and further increases are expected in areas including labour, business rates, utilities and sugar taxes.”

However, the firm anticipates full-year trading to meet expectations and intends to open between 10 and 15 new pubs.

Mr Martin, a staunch Brexit backer, also said the “lowest food prices” can be obtained by the UK by avoiding a transitional deal with the EU.

“This would enable the UK to scrap EU food tariffs, as permitted under World Trade Organisation rules, on food imported from outside the EU. Under WTO rules, tariffs would not then be charged on imports from the EU either,” he said.

His comments come as fears rise that Brexit could lead to a bonfire of food safety standards, with US products such as chlorinated chicken flooding the UK market in place of continental delicacies.