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Cocktails boost Wetherspoons but ale sales go flat as older drinkers stay away

·2-min read

Strong demand for cocktails from younger customers has helped boost JD Wetherspoon, but the pub giant has seen some of its older clientele stay away.

The pub group, led by Tim Martin, saw shares dip on Wednesday morning after it revealed that like-for-like sales for the past 15 weeks are 8.9% down on levels from the same period in 2019.

Wetherspoons said this included a 9.6% decline in bar sales, although it highlighted a surge in sales of drinks typically bought by its younger customers.

Over the 15-week period to November 7, the hospitality firm saw cocktail sales rise 45%, vodka sales increase 17% and rum sales rise 26%.

Meanwhile, it revealed that draught products, which are traditionally bought by its older customers, saw significant declines amid caution due to the pandemic.

Sales of traditional draught ales declined by 30% and stout sales fell 20%.

Tim Martin announces Wetherspoon results
JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin said he hopes booster vaccinations could see more older customers return (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Martin, chairman and founder of the company, said he hopes the rollout of Covid-19 booster vaccinations could help improve its trade among older customers.

“With no music in Wetherspoon pubs, apart from 46 trading as Lloyds, a material proportion of our trade comes from older customers, some of whom have visited pubs less frequently in recent times,” he said.

“As outlined in our annual report, published in October 2021, there have been no outbreaks of Covid-19, as defined by the health authorities, among customers in Wetherspoon pubs.

“However, some customers have been understandably cautious. Improvement in trade will therefore depend, to some extent, on the outlook for the Covid-19 virus.

“Whereas we have an increased element of caution about near-term sales, booster vaccinations and better weather in the spring are likely to have a positive impact in the coming months.”

Wetherspoons added that its food volumes “appear to have been affected by some customers working from home”, with sales of breakfasts dropping by 22% and coffee sales falling 30%.

The company also told investors it has had “some problems from time to time” within its supply chain over the period, but it stressed these related to a “minority of items” for which it could find alternatives.

It added that stocking levels for both bar and food products is in line with previous years and problems have eased further in recent weeks.

Shares were 3.7% lower at 990.6p in early trading.

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