The Barkby Group, operators of Barkby Pubs, has announced that like-for-like sales across its pub estate were down by 45% between 1 October and 31 December 2020, but said the group is “poised for significant growth and a return to profitability” once the sector reopens this spring.
Between 1 July and 30 September sales were down by only 3%, as trade “built quickly” over the first few weeks of hospitality’s reopening in July. In August, like-for-like sales increased “significantly”, supported by the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
According to the group, busy trade in the earlier days of the week, alongside good summer weather and strong demand for accommodation due to staycations resulted in year-on-year growth of 21% in August and 24% in September, with good year-on-year growth across all pubs.
The trading restrictions that were introduced in October, as well as the second national lockdown in November, saw reduced trading between October and December. Despite being permitted to re-open in December, ongoing trading restrictions alongside weak consumer demand resulted in “particularly low” sales and profitability during the festive period.
Overall, the group said it was “difficult to extrapolate the underlying performance of the pubs business over the six-month period as the impact of consumer confidence and enforced restrictions has made it difficult to build any period of normalised trade”.
Whilst the entire period suffered from some form of restriction, the group said it did benefit from a reduced cost base as a result of the furlough scheme and local grants alongside the support of suppliers, including periods of reduced rent from landlords.
Whilst its pubs are not currently trading, the group noted that the recent roadmap announcement and provisional reopening date of 17 May 2021 “gives cause for optimism” for the group.
In light of this, the group said it is “actively looking” for further opportunities to add to its pub portfolio. It added that it will be in a strong position to benefit from restricted international travel, staycations, pent up demand for hospitality and changing consumer behaviour.
Charles Dickson, chairman of Barkby, said: “During the period, we took the opportunity to make a number of operational improvements in our pub business, which we expect to lead to higher margins once lockdown restrictions are lifted. As we come out of lockdown, our pubs and coffee business are poised for significant growth and a return to profitability.
“Our liquidity is strong and the diversification of the business means that the Group is in a strong position to benefit from the lifting of government restrictions. I look forward to the next 12 months with increasing confidence.”