Pub chain J D Wetherspoon has announced a 3.2% like-for-like sales increase, alongside a 0.7% rise in total sales, during the 12 weeks to 15 January 2017.
In the year to date (25 weeks to 15 January 2017), the 915-strong group saw like-for-like sales and total sales increase by 3.4% and 1.6% respectively.
The company has opened two new pubs since the start of the financial year and sold 21, with the intention of opening 10-15 pubs this year. It also expects the operating margin for the half year ending 22 January to be around 8%, 1.7% higher than the same period last year.
Net debt at the end of this financial year is currently expected to be around £50m higher than the same period last year, partly due to the purchase of an increased number of freehold reversions.
Chairman of J D Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, said: "The company anticipates significantly higher costs in the second half of the financial year. On an annualised basis, these are expected to rise by about 4% for wages, by £7m for business rates and by £2m for the Apprenticeship Levy, in addition to cost increases at around the level of inflation in other areas. As previously announced, the company intends to increase the level of capital investment in existing pubs from £34m in 2015/6 to around £60m in the current year.
"In view of these additional costs and our expectation that like-for-like sales will be lower in the next six months, the company remains cautious about the second half of the year. Nevertheless, as a result of modestly better-than-expected year-to-date sales, we currently anticipate a slightly improved trading outcome for the current financial year, compared with our expectations at the last update."
"It also lacks any genuine commitment to free trade, other than to countries which are in, or on the borders of, the EU. Unless these lessons are learned and acknowledged by economists, their historic mistakes will be repeated. As regards the other frequently asked question about the government's stance on dealing with the EU, the golden rule in any negotiations, ignored by David Cameron, is the willingness to walk away.
"Most people now understand that the mutual imposition of World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs would create a windfall for the UK, so a sensible basic mantra for the UK is 'free trade or World Trade Organisation rules - the EU can choose'."