Wetherspoons scraps no-football policy as UK pubs expected to serve 7mln pints on semi-final

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JD Wetherspoon PLC (LON:JDW) has made a U-turn on a historic policy after missing out on sales driven by the UEFA Euro 2020.

The FTSE 250 group, which normally doesn’t televise any matches, is allowing pub managers to show Wednesday’s semi-final – where England will play against Denmark – if they wish to do so.

READ: Wetherspoon’s sales continue to falter following reopening

However, most sites have one or two small screens and some have none at all, Sky News reported.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has predicted that pubs will serve 6.8mln pints during the match, which is more than during England’s quarter-final match against Ukraine. The trade body reckons it’s due to a ‘feel good factor’.

However, pubs are losing on GBP6.5mln worth of sales as 1.7mln extra pints could have been sold if there weren’t any restrictions.

“If the team goes on to win, a final at Wembley awaits, which would be a huge boost to our pubs and the nation,” said BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin.

“After a long wait, the pubs we love should be restriction free from 19 July. Only when the restrictions are removed can our pubs recover, but to do so they need Government investment to build back better.”

As for Wetherspoons, sticking to the no-football rule has been hampering recovery as England eased COVID-19 restrictions.

Sales in the past weeks have been lagging its competitors by around 20%, broker Liberum estimated, also because of its bigger sites, high street location and reliance on customers drinking at the bar rather than sitting at tables.

“We expect sales recovery to be boosted by the impending removal of all trading restrictions (19 July), which will allow vertical drinking and support the return to high density of customers; however, how quickly customers return to this behaviour remains to be seen,” analysts said.

As of 4 July, 850 out of 860 of Wetherspoons pubs were back open, with only some airport pubs remaining closed.

“The company also accused successive governments of robbing poor pubs to help rich supermarkets. It says the phased increase in VAT from emergency levels is unfair, given that grocers won’t have to pay the same amount on beer shifted from stores,” noted Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Sainsbury’s reported yesterday that beer sales had soared by 60% above normal levels since the start of the Euros, so clearly the company is concerned about the stiff competition going forward. Although it has to be noted that the company made pre-tax profit of GBP95.4mln in 2019, before the pandemic hit.”

Shares shed 2% to 1,208.6p on Wednesday before close.


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