Fuller's_Simon Emeny 1

The return of people to the office has helped drive a double-digit uptick in like-for-like (lfl) sales, Fuller’s CEO Simon Emeny tells MCA.

A combination of internal and external factors – such as extensive work around menu development, marketing, and investments into the estate – helped the pub operator report an 11% rise in lfl sales for the year to 30 March 2024.

“People have continued to return to their pre-Covid lifestyles,” Emeny says. “Work from home isn’t finished, but it’s on the way out.”

Fuller’s revenue rose 7% to £359.1m in the year, with volume growth across food, drink, and accommodation. While mindful of the squeeze on customers, Fuller’s audience is “slightly order, more discerning, and higher income,” meaning those who are “careful with money but prepared to pay for premium products.”

“The pubs look brilliant, the food and service is good, and we put on events,” Emeny continues. “Going to the pub is still good value for money.”

The business looks to continue investing in the existing estate but also grow it.

“What we’ve done is make strategic moves to take steps forward,” he adds, referring to the transfer of 23 pubs from the Managed to Tenanted estate, as well as the sale of 37 non-core pubs to Admiral Taverns earlier this year.

With lfl sales up 14.5% and 9.8% for food and drink respectively, Fuller’s response to the premiumisation trend has helped drive demand.

“People are prepared to spend on high quality products…we’re seeing growth in premium tequila, world lager, and also wine.

“We’ve also gained market share with a wide range of premium drinks to choose from.”

Lfl sales for the 10 weeks to 8 June were up 4.4%, but despite the wet weather, Emeny remains optimistic.

“I’m happy with where we are, to have achieved that without good weather.

“We’ve got the Euros and Taylor Swift tour coming – these big events will have a big impact on tourism. I’m optimistic about the summer.”

Meanwhile, analyst notes on Fuller’s FY results highlighted a ‘pronounced recovery’ in EPS, “consistent with the impressive, balanced sales rebuild in the managed estate, particularly urban locations,” according to Deutsche Bank.

“We expect the underlying demand recovery in the City and West End to continue in FY25,” Deutsche Bank added.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, added: “Pleasingly, like-for-like sales have also held up well in the first few weeks of the year, rising 4.4% in the first 10 weeks as pubgoers still sought out an enjoyable experience despite the squeeze on their wallets.

“There’s no hiding from the fact that the damp spring wasn’t ideal for consumers, so Fullers will be hoping for warm summer evenings, beautiful hot weekends and a stellar performance from England at the Euros.

“If it can get all three of those things this summer, the iconic pubs group will have every reason to be cheerful, especially given the prospect of extended licences if the Three Lions do particularly well.

“Fuller’s is well-positioned for future growth and there’s a clear strategy for investment and a commitment to developing its workforce. Reinforcing this is a solid financial foundation and predominantly freehold estate that provides it with a stable platform for expansion and innovation.”