Profits to lower at pub chain Wetherspoon as costs rise

Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin visits his Beckett's Bank pub in Leeds. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe 5th December 2018.
Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin visits his Beckett's Bank pub in Leeds. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe 5th December 2018.
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Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has said profits are to come in lower in the first half of the year after the firm was stung by a rise in costs, taking the shine off a stellar rise in sales.

JD Wetherspoon said in a trading update that in the first 12 weeks of the second quarter to January 20, like-for-like sales increased by 7.2 per cent and total sales by 8.3 per cent. In the half year, comparable increased by 6.3 per cent and total sales by 7.2 per cent.

However, costs have rocketed, especially labour, which has increased by about £30m in the period.

Wetherspoon said that pre-tax profit in the first half is expected to be lower than last year’s £62m.

Tim Martin, chairman and founder of Wetherspoon, said: “Sales growth has been strong since our last update. Costs, as previously indicated, are considerably higher than the previous year, especially labour, which has increased by about £30m in the period, but also in other areas, including interest, utilities, repairs and depreciation.

“Profit before tax in the first half is expected to be lower than the same period last year. Our expectations for the full year are unchanged.”

The company has opened two new pubs in the first half and has closed or sold six. It guided new openings of between five and 10 pubs in the current financial year.

Brexit-backing Mr Martin also used the update to wade into politics, arguing that one of the reasons Britain should quit the EU is because of tariffs the bloc has imposed on Cambodian rice.

The ardent Brexiteer embarked on a country-wide tour to sell the idea of ‘No Deal’ Brexit. On a visit to Leeds last month he labelled Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal “terrible”.

“Theresa May hasn’t prioritised leaving,” he said, “she has prioritised and put all her energy into the deal.”