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Tue 2nd May 2023 - Liberation Group reports UK managed like-for-likes up 4.7% with current trading ‘encouraging’
Liberation Group reports UK managed like-for-likes up 4.7% with current trading ‘encouraging’: Channel Islands and West Country brewer and retailer Liberation Group has reported like-for-like sales in its managed estate are up 4.7% year-on-year for the 12 weeks to 22 April 2023. Drink like-for-like sales have increased 4.4%, food is up 2.8% (not adjusted for VAT) and accommodation 13.9%. Like-for-like sales in the Channel Islands estate are down 4.6% “due to local trading issues in selected sites”. Group tenanted Ebitda per pub is flat compared with last year while UK own brewing volumes are up 8%. Liberation Group said it has successfully completed the integration of Cirrus Inns into its Butcombe Pubs and Inns business following the merger on 16 December 2022. It comes as the business reported like-for-like sales for the 37 weeks to 28 January 2023 in its 36 UK managed pubs were up 4.5%. Drink like-for-like sales increased 12.2%, food was down 2% (not adjusted for VAT) and accommodation up 4.8%. Like-for-like sales in the 16-strong Channel Islands estate were up 4.5%. For the 52 weeks ended 28 January 2023, average Ebitda per pub in the tenanted estate was £94,600 compared with £90,200 for the year ended January 2020. UK own brewing volumes were up 21.5% versus last year. The company stated: “Looking forward, the outlook for the rest of this year remains uncertain given the stubbornly high inflation rates, rising interest rates and the resulting impact on consumers' disposable income. But we have been cautiously encouraged by the start of the year and are confident in the quality of our business, offer and above all our teams. All markets and channels offer us the opportunity to grow market share and our work over the last few years places us in a strong position to seize these opportunities. Targeted investments have already commenced, and we have a clear pipeline of internal investment opportunities available to us, including additional rooms. Our P&L has also had to deal with a significant increase in costs, notably utilities, wage costs and food inflation. On utilities there is a significant impact this year, which is not sustainable to pass on to the consumer, but we can already see a route to a lower cost level towards the end of this year and next year. On wage costs we have significantly improved our systems, reporting and operating practices within our pub estate to drive higher levels of productivity, in addition we have almost entirely removed the need and use of agencies within our kitchens which has had a material impact on our cost base and a positive impact on morale within our existing teams. We have seen significant food inflation over the last 12 months and have made every effort to keep price increases to a minimum, which in part has been made possible by our local suppliers and fresh food offer, giving us greater speed and flexibility than other operators. We are now seeing food inflation beginning to calm and in certain products such as butter and oil experiencing a fall in prices. As a result of this combined approach, we are encouraged by the margin performance of both our pubs and drinks business and feel we have struck the right balance between delivering value for money to our customers, a fair price for our suppliers and driving value through our business to assist future investment and growth.” Chief executive Jonathan Lawson said: “I’m delighted and really impressed with the progress we have made since Christmas. Our collective teams have worked incredibly quickly and effectively. We are now in the position where all 22 of the new pubs and inns are fully integrated into our systems, processes and infrastructure and trading under the Butcombe brand. We have launched our award-winning food and drinks offerings, which have been really well received by our teams and customers, new websites are now in place and customers are now able to take advantage of our fantastic loyalty club. Part of the logic behind the deal was to leverage the benefits of scale that the larger group would bring, and we have already been able to do this across food and drink, to the benefit of the entire group, in both the UK and Channel Islands. This also includes our accommodation where we now have more than 400 rooms, compared with under 100 in 2020. We are now able to operate at a different level in terms of marketing appeal and our higher room sales has additional and positive impact on our food and drink sales and margin mix. We have only had to add a small incremental overhead to our business to integrate the new pubs into the larger group, which has enabled us to achieve the targeted overhead savings from the combined business. Most importantly, the integration has seen us welcome some fantastic new team members to our team and we have been incredibly encouraged by the quality and calibre of the new chefs, managers and team members applying to join us and play a part in our exciting next stage of growth. We delivered a strong year of trading last year across pubs and drinks in all markets, culminating in a strong Christmas. We are encouraged by the start we have made this year, despite weather in the spring that has frequently felt like winter. Our investment into external areas over the last few years puts us in a strong position to capitalise on the sun when it finally arrives.” Liberation Group features in the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage. It is the first database where full profiles of 667 of the UK’s top food and beverage operators are available in one place. The latest edition features more than 174,000 words of content, including 74 updated entries, while 16 new companies were added. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription.

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