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Mon 23rd Sep 2019 - Brighton Pier Group reports sales and earnings rise
Brighton Pier Group reports sales and earnings rise: The Brighton Pier Group, which owns and trades Brighton Palace Pier, as well as seven indoor mini golf sites and twelve premium bars nationwide, including two ping-pong concept bars, has reported sales rose to £32m in the 52 weeks ended 30 June 2019 (52 weeks in 2018: £31.4m). Group Ebitda rose to £5.3m compared to £5.2m the year before. Profit before tax was £3.2m (2018: £3.2m). The company reported the first full year of trading since the upgrade of the restaurant and bars last year at Brighton Pier saw revenue up 17% year-on-year. Conference and events business was up 37% year-on-year. An upgrade by Network Rail of the London to Brighton mainline railway was completed in May 2019 and will benefit the current year and beyond. Its Putney site underwent a full refit and re-opened in November 2018 as ‘Le Fez’. The site is trading ahead of expectations and won a “Best in Putney customer service award for 2019”. It reported that the successful disposal of the freehold interest in Derby for gross proceeds of £800,000. A successful sub-let of Reading Coalition, completed the bars rationalisation process. Within its golf division, there was a First full year under the group’s ownership and trading in line with expectations at the time of the acquisition. One new Golf site was opened at Rushden Lakes in March 2019 and is trading ahead of expectations. A further site due to open at Drake’s Circus in Plymouth in October 2019. Chief executive Anne Ackord said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the national tourist boards to the pier to celebrate the 120th anniversary of its opening. The pier has benefited hugely from the new investment in the transformed Horatio’s Bar and Palm Court restaurant – but of equal importance has been the continued investment in the structure over the last 6 years. This continued investment will ensure that this landmark venue will be there for future generations to enjoy for another 120 years. The re-opening of our venue in Putney as ‘Le Fez’ in November last year has been an outstanding success for the Bars Division and the management team at the club. Our new golf site opening at Rushden Lakes, the first since our purchase of Paradise Island Adventure Golf last year, has performed beyond expectations and we are looking forward to our next opening at Drake’s Circus in Plymouth later this year. I am delighted that the group has delivered growth in both sales and earnings. Trading for the group during the important first two months of the current financial year – July and August 2019 – met budget.” Chairman Luke Johnson added: “This financial year marks another milestone in the life of Brighton Palace Pier with the celebration in May 2019 of its 120th anniversary. This iconic structure is part of Brighton’s heart and we at The Brighton Pier Group are proud to be its current custodian. Since our acquisition of the pier in 2016, we have spent nearly £2 million maintaining its substructure and this year’s annual structural report has confirmed that the steelwork under the deck is in its best condition for many years. Our investment will ensure the future of this landmark for many years to come. Since the acquisition, we have invested a further £2.9 million on capital projects such as the full refit of the bars and catering facilities, soft play in the Dome, the new Dolphin Derby, new machines for the arcades, new children’s rides and new catering offers such as pizza, rice and noodles, frozen yogurts and new fish and chip takeaway shops for the busier periods. This year’s results show in particular the impact of last year’s investment in the upgrades to the Palm Court restaurant and Horatio’s Bar with sales up 17% versus the prior period. In addition, we have seen significant growth in the conference and events business with 27 additional events and £162,000 additional revenue versus the prior year. This result is impressive given the challenging weather last summer and train cancellations throughout most of the 2019 financial year. It was good to see the London to Brighton mainline upgrades complete on time at the start of May 2019, but the 30 days of closures, mostly over the weekends and key half term periods, during the group’s 2019 financial year impacted the whole of Brighton. This disruption, coupled with poor weather (including over the key bank holiday weekend early in the last financial year) was disappointing. The Pier Division increased sales in its interior businesses (arcades and catering) by £0.6 million; however, its exterior businesses (rides and retail) were disrupted or closed by high winds and rain, reducing revenue from higher margin offerings and resulting in a disproportionate effect on the division’s overall Ebitda (down £0.3 million versus last year). The Golf Division completed its first full year inside the group, delivering Ebitda of £1.5 million; these results are in line with expectations at the time we acquired the business. It was a pleasure to see the construction of our first new site at Rushden Lakes opening on time and on budget. This venue is trading ahead of expectations and reflects the impressive variety of indoor and outdoor leisure activities at this location which is driving good footfall to this new development. Work has now also started on our second site at Drake’s Circus in Plymouth, which is scheduled to open in October 2019. The highlight for the Bars Division this year was the successful refit at Putney: although delayed by unexpected problems during the construction period, this is now open and trading ahead of expectations. The new ‘Le Fez’ is experimenting with activity-led sessions such as bingo and comedy nights. On the weekends, we have added live entertainment with singing waitresses, dancers and more: adding content that gives Saturday nights a special party feel. The Bars Division has also now completed its rationalisation programme: our Derby freehold site was sold for £800,000 and we have completed the sub-let of Reading Coalition. This brings the total sites disposed from the Bars Division over the last three years to nine. Although these disposals and closures have impacted sales in the short term, they have improved profitability. The group does not envisage any further closures next year. The remaining bars estate comprises twelve cash-generating sites, all situated in prime locations.”

Escape Hunt signs US and Canada franchise deal: Escape Hunt has signed a contract with its US franchising partner, Proprietors Capital Holdings, for a roll-out of new franchise sites across the US and Canada. The company stated: “PCH is a US-based investment capital company with a wealth of experience in supporting and growing brands as both a franchisee and franchisor. PCH has successfully grown brands including Papa Murphy’s, CPR – Cell Phone Repair, PROSE, Miracle Method, Online Trading Academy, and Pedal Pub. During the last few months, PCH’s management team has spent time in the UK getting to know Escape Hunt, and, together with the Escape Hunt management team, has developed a detailed plan to address the market opportunity for escape rooms in the US and Canada. It is expected that PCH will operate its own Escape Hunt sites as a franchisee, as well as operate sub-franchisees where appropriate. PCH will be responsible for providing the resources to fund the roll-out. Both companies look forward to commencing the roll-out of sites in the coming months.” Richard Harpham, Escape Hunt chief executive, said: “We are delighted to have found in PCH a partner that has a proven track record of rolling-out franchises, is well-resourced, and has a deep understanding of the experiential market. With a plan to roll-out escape rooms across the entirety of the US and Canada, this deal represents a significant step towards achieving our goal of growing the franchise estate by two to three times over the medium term.” Scott Evert, PCH managing partner, said: “Escape Hunt sets the bar as the preeminent provider of immersive escape room experiences and we are excited to help bring their games to the US and Canadian markets.”

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