Wetherspoons, the popular pub chain in the UK and Ireland, saw a significant surge in its shares, rising by more than 10%. The company announced that improved sales and reduced cost pressures are expected to drive a better financial performance in the coming year. Wetherspoons specifically highlighted the positive impact of lower energy costs on its future performance. Chairman Tim Martin also expressed confidence that the current financial year’s profits would meet market expectations.
In its trading update, Wetherspoons revealed that like-for-like sales in the first 10 weeks of the fourth quarter, ending on July 31, were up by 11% compared to the same period in 2019 before the pandemic, and rose by 11.5% compared to last year. However, eToro analyst Adam Vettese urged caution, stating that despite the positive news, rising interest rates and inflation could still impact consumer spending on dining out and going to pubs. The possibility of cash-strapped shoppers opting for supermarket purchases instead of visiting pubs remains a concern.
The challenging economic conditions faced by the hospitality sector could work in favor of J D Wetherspoon, as consumers seek affordable options for their leisure activities. Jocelyn Paulley, a retail and leisure partner at Gowling, acknowledged the tough conditions but highlighted the potential advantage for Wetherspoons.
The recent bank holiday period in the UK saw high demand for Wetherspoons, and the company achieved record Easter sales in April, demonstrating the resilience of its low-cost leisure offerings. Additionally, Wetherspoons has opened three new pubs while closing, selling, or surrendering 28 others. Responding to claims that these actions were aimed at raising money due to the challenging trading circumstances in the hospitality industry, the company clarified that the disposals were not primarily driven by financial motives. Wetherspoons emphasized that the amounts raised were relatively modest and most of the closures were due to the presence of another Wetherspoons pub nearby.
Wetherspoons operates over 800 pubs, primarily in Britain, with eight properties in Ireland, including Dublin, Cork, and Carlow. The company has long expressed its ambition to expand its presence in Ireland and began a €50m expansion drive in the country during the pandemic in 2021. The recent positive performance and future growth plans have generated optimism among investors and analysts.