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Wetherspoon toasts record sales

11 September 09 06:43 GMT

Pub operator JD Wetherspoon said it has weathered the recession as it reported record sales levels.

Takings grew 1.2% in the year to 26 July, as it kept pubs busy by offering breakfast and other meals, as well as coffee and drinks sales.

The firm, which has 731 pubs across the UK, made a pre-tax profit of £66.2m, up 13%, though profits fell 16.9% to £45m after one-off costs.

Chairman Tim Martin said sales since July had also been strong.

"As in the recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s, the company has traded well by concentrating on the key ingredients of standards, service, staff training and incentives," he added.

Wetherspoon said it was the only large pub firm which opens all its pubs early in the morning - selling more than 715,000 breakfasts and coffees each week - "more than most coffee shop chains".

Real ale sales continued to improve, it added, with sales rising 17%.

'Pragmatic approach'

Mr Martin has been vocal about the increase in taxes and regulation faced by his industry, which had made drinking in pubs increasingly expensive compared with drinking at home.

"Coincidentally, there has been a huge increase in 'off-trade' sales of alcoholic drinks, combined with a decrease in sales volumes in pubs," he said.

"We believe that the net effect of this has been to increase levels of 'unsupervised' drinking and directly contribute to many pubs' closure, at the same time exacerbating the problem of 'binge-drinking'."

He said that he hoped future government policy would "be guided by a more pragmatic, and less doctrinaire, approach, so that pubs retain their historic importance in the national social life".

The firm's one-off costs, which ate into profits, included losses on properties they bought, but had decided not to develop, and costs from a legal battle with their former estate agents.

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