Prior to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Oakman revealed it was “trading well” with LFL sales up 4.3% year to date and total sales +14.3%. However, the “sudden closure” of the business in week 38 of the financial year has meant that for the year ending 30 June sales of £31.5m represent a decline of 17.3% over the previous year.
It also said that all 28 of its pubs opened on 4 July, and that early trading has been “positive”. It added that “unsurprisingly”, the company is experiencing higher operating costs due to the cost of COVID-safe compliance, rising food prices and additional labour costs driven by operational complexities.
However, it said it is “confident” that the VAT cut announced by the chancellor will provide “significant margin mitigation” and, together with the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ Scheme will help boost demand in August as well as helping get people back into the “swing of enjoying eating out once again”.
Along with the appointment of King, Oakman revealed that Mike Smith is to step down from the chair but will remain on the board as a non-exec. Oakman revealed that Peter Borg-Neal will replace Smith as executive chairman.
King said: “I am honoured and delighted to become CEO of such an outstanding business. Having spent the last eighteen months working alongside Peter and the team I genuinely believe there is no limit to what we might achieve.
“We remain deeply ambitious for the Company and as market leaders in the growing premium pub sub-sector, we believe that the opportunities ahead of us for this deeply talented team, are very exciting.”
Borg-Neal added: “Our decision to press on with our reopening programme three weeks ahead of July 4th and our success in retraining and motivating our people, means that we have been able to reopen in considerable style. Concerning organic growth, Oakman has an excellent pipeline of ‘shovel-ready’ sites located in Buckingham, Wokingham, Epsom and Hatfield.
“The first three are expected to open in 2021 and Hatfield in early 2022. However, while timings will be extended due to the closure and rebuild periods, we see no reason why the previous forecast cannot be achieved. Indeed, we believe that the crisis will create significant opportunities for further growth, which should allow a business of our calibre to outperform the previous forecasts once the economy recovers.”