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Fuller’s pub group warns of ‘tough winter’ ahead as new tiers loom

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter
·3-min read

Pub group Fuller’s has said it is optimistic despite warning that it faces a “tough winter and a very different looking Christmas” as sales continue to be weighed down by coronavirus restrictions.

Simon Emeny, chief executive of the chain, told the PA news agency that some of its London pubs will not be viable in new Tier 2 restrictions as he called for more financial support from Government.

“The problem with Tier 2 is that it was already tricky but has changed to make trading even harder,” he said.

“The need to offer substantial meals means some of our London pubs are not viable – we cannot build a kitchen in four days.

“It’s really challenging on our supply chain as well. We’d typically want the cask beer arriving in our pubs today to reopen next week so only finding out today has given us an uphill task, but we are rising to it, as are our suppliers.”

He called on the Prime Minister to extend the current business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure firms to the next financial year after “inadequate” support in the Chancellor’s Spending Review on Wednesday.

Fuller’s, which runs 388 pubs and hotels, said its October sales were hammered by the introduction of the initial tiered measures before England’s second national lockdown.

The chief executive said trading steadily improved after the first English lockdown but said the tightening of restrictions again from September “knocked consumer confidence and impacted trading”.

It reported that sales were impacted by the introduction of the “rule of six” and 10pm curfew but added that London’s move into Tier 2 measures had “the largest impact”.

Fuller's chief executive Simon Emeny (Fuller's/PA)
Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny (Fuller’s/PA)

Fuller’s said that the Government’s guidance for workers to stay at home left central London “like a ghost town”, with sales across its 37 largest pubs in the area falling to less than 30% of levels from the previous year.

It said sales in the final week of October were 57% of levels for the same period last year, across its estate.

The group also confirmed that its staff numbers are 20% lower than they were at the start of the financial year, in April, after major job cuts.

Mr Emeny said: “We are optimistic about the future in the medium term and beyond, but there is no doubt that this will be a tough winter and a very different looking Christmas.

“We will start to reopen our estate in a measured way, navigating the tier system and the restrictions that come with it.

“However, it is important that we see beyond these obstacles and look at the bigger picture.

“The excellent news of successful vaccines gives us confidence where previously there was uncertainty, and with the sensible decisions we have taken during the pandemic, Fuller’s is well-placed for future success.”

It came as the company fell to an adjusted pre-tax loss of £22.2 million for the six months to September 26.

Its revenue for the half-year fell by 72.7% to £45.6 million compared to the same period last year.

Shares in the company moved 0.3% higher to 702p in early trading.