(Reuters) -Fuller, Smith & Turner said it was confident customers would keep flocking to its pubs this Christmas despite the challenging economic environment, after tourists and commuters returned to London, driving sales higher.
Many of Britain's hospitality businesses are fighting to survive this winter as energy and staff costs rise while high inflation erodes consumer disposable incomes. But so far Fuller's has defied the downturn, helped by its large exposure to central London.
Comparable sales rose 20% in the six months to Sept. 24 compared with the prior year, with a 67% jump in central London.
The capital was slower to recover from the pandemic than smaller urban areas as some commuters and tourists avoided public transport, but Fuller's figures showed its London pubs, which include Charles Dickens's favourite hostelry the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden, had roared back to life since.
For the seven weeks to Nov. 12, Fuller's said comparable sales across central London were up 20% versus a 13% rise across its whole estate, and that was despite several tube and train strikes.
Fuller's said Christmas bookings were strong and it also expected a boost from the FIFA World Cup.
Analysts at Stifel said that Fuller's results looked strong compared to an industry tracker which showed 6% growth in pub like-for-like sales in October.
Earlier in November, pub group J D Wetherspoon reported a 9.6% rise in like-for-like sales for the first quarter.
But Fuller's warned that the environment remained tough.
Pub groups are grappling with the rising costs of everything from labour and food ingredients to energy, as well as the threat of lower spending by consumers faced with a rising cost of living.
(Reporting by Sarah Young in London and Prerna Bedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Kate Holton)