Pub chain Wetherspoon sees sales up but margins slip
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon said sales grew in recent weeks despite the snow, but warned profit margins were coming under pressure from the increasing cost of food, drink and other bills.
Wetherspoon, which operates nearly 800 outlets including in Belfast, Ballymena, Coleraine and Londonderry, said like-for-like sales increased 3% in the 12 weeks to January 16, up from 1.6% in the previous quarter.
But analysts estimated that its operating margin had slipped to about 9.4% from 10% a year ago as it battled rising costs, including the rise in alcohol duty and VAT at the start of January, higher interest charges and utility bills.
The company said it was confident of a reasonable outcome for the year to July despite the harsher economic climate, helped by its plans to open 50 pubs in the year.
The company put up prices by an average of 3% to 4% in October after facing price hikes from suppliers in its first non-tax-related price hike of 2010.