Pub company JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has renewed his call for a reduction in VAT, as the company revealed that like-for-like sales for the 12 weeks to 15 January 2012 were up 3.6% on the same period a year ago.
December saw strong like-for-like sales, mainly due to poor weather in the previous year, while sales growth for the period before and after December 2011 were "roughly" in line with the 1.1% growth in the company's first quarter (to 23 October 2011).
Wetherspoon warned that it expected operating margin for the half-year ending 22 January 2012 to be slightly below that achieved in the first quarter of the year, "with the potential for further decline in the second half of this financial year".
The company blamed continuing cost increases for the fall in profitability, citing further increases in excise duty, business rates and carbon tax. It also highlighted the unfairness of pubs having to pay VAT on food, whereas supermarkets did not, as well as having to pay higher rates of VAT than similar businesses in Ireland and France.
"We believe the Government needs to reduce VAT for pubs and restaurants as a priority," the company said.
By Neil Gerrard
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