Brewers lifted by customers finding comfort down at the local

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IN hard times, Britons, it seems, are finding solace in the pub.

Pub firms Marston’s and Fuller’s yesterday reported strong sales growth, as the mild weather over Christmas and the New Year encouraged more people to forget their economic troubles and head to the local.

Marston’s, which has around 2,150 pubs, said sales at its managed pubs open more than a year rose by five per cent in the 16 weeks to January 21, with food sales up 5.5 per cent and sales of drinks rising 4.8 per cent.

In the last eight weeks of the period, sales rose by seven per cent.

The comparable period in the previous year had been affected by the cold weather and snow.

Rivals Mitchells & Butlers, Greene King and JD Wetherspoon have also reported strong sales growth in recent weeks.

Marston’s said it expected the consumer environment to remain challenging this year but hoped to benefit from its “value-for-money” focus and plans to open pubs with an emphasis on a higher margin food offering.

It plans to create 1,000 jobs this year. Marston’s employs more than 12,000 people across England and Wales. It has 284 managed and tenanted pubs in Yorkshire.

It is one of Britain’s best known brewers of premium cask and bottled ales, including Marston’s Pedigree.

Its portfolio also includes Banks’s, Jennings, Wychwood and Mansfield beers.

In a trading statement, Marston’s said: “Our focus on value, service and quality; the performance of our new-build pub-restaurants; the success of franchise agreements; and the benefits of enhanced commercial support to our tenanted and free trade customers have all contributed to the positive performance to date.

“We remain well positioned to make progress on our key objectives of sustainable growth, improved return on capital and reduced leverage.”

Fuller’s, whose pubs are primarily based around London, said it hoped to benefit from the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee.

Chairman Michael Turner said the company had bought 14 pubs this year giving it “good momentum going into a summer of sport and celebration that should lift the national mood”.

He added: “The company has traded well since we last reported and we have had another strong Christmas.”

Beer has been brewed on Fuller’s Chiswick site in London for more than 350 years

The company’s trading statement added: “We have exchanged on two more pubs that are due to complete before the end of March and the two recent acquisitions that are currently closed for extensive work, The Crown Inn, Bishop’s Waltham and The White Swan Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon, will reopen in March and April respectively.”