Wetherspoons has mixed first half as competition and pay push profits down

Pub group Wetherspoons saw profit fall 1.1 per cent in the six months to January, despite revenue and like-for-like sales climbing.

The chain said increased competition from supermarkets and higher pay and bonuses for pub staff had kept operating profit down, falling 1.1 per cent to £55.1m.

Profit before tax and exceptional items dropped 0.9 per cent to £37.5m.

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Mr Martin reiterated his calls for tax parity between pubs and supermarkets, as the lower rate paid by supermarkets is “the biggest danger to the pub industry”.

He said: “Thanks mainly to the work of Jacques Borel’s VAT Club, there is a growing realisation among politicians, the media and the public that pubs are overtaxed and that a level tax playing field will create more jobs and taxes for the country.”

Revenue climbed nine per cent to £744.4m in the 26 weeks to January 25, while like-for-like sales rose 4.5 per cent.

Since the period ended, like-for-like sales were up 1.6 per cent in the six weeks to March 8 and total sales up 5.6 per cent, JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said.

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Mr Martin highlighted the business’ strong coffee and breakfast trade, with its 900-plus pubs selling approximately 50 million Lavazza coffees and teas per annum and about 24 million breakfasts.

According to research by CGA Peach, this beats coffee chains Caffe Nero and Pret a Manger for breakfast trade, he said.