Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny said today that the pub chain was “comfortable” with the level of trade it has done since lockdown as he also reflected on how one of the most transformative financial years in its business ended with all its sites being closed.
Fuller’s runs 400 pubs and made sales of £333m for the 12 months to 28 March 2020, an increase of 3% year-on-year.
Mr Emeny said: “When we released our interim statement in December 2019, we were on track to finish the financial year in a good position having received the proceeds from the sale of the Fuller’s Beer Business and with a clear future path laid out before us.
“It had been a transformational year for Fuller’s – but we would never have anticipated that we would end it in March with the whole hospitality industry in a state of closure and with no income stream.”
Mr Emeny said that against this backdrop, it is easy to forget that the financial year started in April 2019 with the sale of the Fuller’s Beer Business to Asahi Europe for an enterprise value of £250m, followed in October by the acquisition of Cotswold Inns & Hotels from existing bank facilities.
The decision to sell the Fuller’s Beer Business at that time has proved fortuitous and ensured Fuller’s is in a strong position, with substantial liquidity headroom, when the coronavirus pandemic struck, he said.
“While it is still early days, it is pleasing to see our teams welcoming guests back and we have taken a range of actions and measures to ensure our pubs are safe and inviting.
“The first stage of our three stage plan saw 27 pubs open on 4 July 2020 and another 136 since – meaning over 75% of our Managed Pubs and Hotels are now open. Almost all our Tenanted Inns have also reopened. While it is too early to draw any meaningful conclusions, we are comfortable with the level of trade and we continue to monitor footfall in those areas where our pubs are not yet open.”
Mr Emeny said that while the company is prepared for business to take some time to return to normal, particularly in London, he believes it is well-placed to satisfy the uptick in demand for staycations as many customers holiday closer to home.
“In these uncertain times, it is challenging to accurately predict the future. But having begun reopening our pubs nearly four weeks ago, it is encouraging to see customers returning to our pubs and this steady growth in consumer confidence will be the key to success – not just of our company or our industry but the economy as a whole.”