High-street pub chain JD Wetherspoon suffered a gloomy Christmas and grim start to the year, with a sales decline deepening further.
Despite strong food sales growth during the 11 weeks to 13 January the operator's overall like-for-like sales were 3.2% lower than the same period last year, as consumers turned their backs on premium lagers and spirits and went for less profitable items.
In the year to date (24 weeks to 13 January) like-for-like sales have decreased by 2% at the chain and it now plans to open fewer pubs than its original target of 25 during its current financial year.
John Hutson, chief executive of Wetherspoon, said: "A strong trend within our business has been a reduction in sales of premium lagers and spirits and an upturn in sales of real ale, food and coffee".
"In recent statements, we and other pub companies have emphasised an element of uncertainty and caution resulting from the smoking bans. We are confident that a non-smoking environment will result in growth in both bar and food categories in the medium and long term."
By Jo Chapman
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