Fuller’s pub chain blames rail strikes for £4m sales hit

UK pub and hotel group Fuller, Smith & Turner plc (“Fuller’s”) has warned that its earnings for the full year will be below market expectations due to the impact of rail strikes.

Fuller’s estimates that industrial action has reduced its sales by around £4m since the start of October.

Rail workers staged a number of walkouts last year over pay and conditions and further strikes are planned for early February.

In a trading update for the 43 weeks to 21 January 2023, Fuller’s said that its underlying positive sales momentum has continued with like-for-like sales up 20% on last year despite a “challenging consumer backdrop”. In comparison to pre-pandemic levels, like-for-like sales for the 43 weeks were at 97% against the same period in fiscal 2020.

For the four-week Christmas and New Year period, sales increased by 38% compared with a trading period last year that was impacted by pandemic restrictions and guidance on working from home. However, the pub chain’s sales compared to the same four weeks in 2019 were down 5% which it attributed to the impact of rail strikes.

“While it is frustrating that the train strikes have set back our reported sales and earnings, it is reassuring that we are achieving our anticipated sales trajectory in periods unaffected by strikes,” said Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny. “While ongoing strike action will dampen sales, demand from customers remains good and we are optimistic that 2023 will deliver further sales growth.”