Wear Inns, the North East-based pub operator, has appointed Simon Duckworth as managing director on a permanent basis – the finance director had been interim managing director since the sudden death of John Weir in August last year.
The appointment comes as the company said it had enjoyed a record year of growth with annual results expected to show both sales and profits well ahead of expectations.
Full year results are due out later this year but strong sales in food and drink are expected to push turnover over £14m (it was £13.6m to the end of March 2016) with a 3.5% increase in like for like sales contributing to a 12% rise in profits.
Duckworth said he plans to invest significantly in the existing estate, enhancing and refreshing the offer across its 25 pubs in the North East and Yorkshire.
He paid tribute to Weir and the way in which the company’s 300-strong workforce had reacted to his sudden death.
“It has been a momentous year in several ways,” said Duckworth. “John Weir’s sad death last August left all of us feeling bereft and uncertain about the future, but everyone has pulled together and carried on, and the anticipated results for the year are a testament to the fact that John had built an efficient and robust business.
“As the new Managing Director it remains my intention to continue to run the business the way John would have wanted, and to maintain the same philosophy of providing excellent amenities, service and value to customers, and an excellent place to work for employees.”
Duckworth, who is based at Wear Inns’ Headquarters in Castle Eden, County Durham, intends to spend more time off site in the pubs to stay in touch with the needs of the business.
There are no plans in the pipeline to continue on the acquisition trail, though if an opportunity arises which fits with Wear Inns strategic objectives and geography it will be considered.
In the last year two pubs have been sold – New Inn, Durham and The Turf, Bradford – while one has been bought – the Whistlestop near Leeds United’s Elland Road ground. Wear Inns has also carried out two major refurbishments in recent weeks – The Guide Post in Springwell Village, Gateshead and The Ox in Stanley, County Durham – and these refits are already reaping rewards with increased sales at both pubs.
Having trained with PwC and worked in several industries as Finance Director, Duckworth was working with the NVM Private Equity team which supported Weir and his business partner John Sands from the formation of Wear Inns in 2006 through the early years of growth. He joined the company full time as FD in 2012 and it is now the biggest independent freehold managed operator in the region in terms of volume of beer sold.
Duckworth said: “The last few months have been a transition period, but with the start of a new financial year we can look forward to the future with confidence. Having worked with both Johns for 10 years I have gained extensive experience in the pub industry and there is a strong operational team in place. I intend to work with them to uphold the values of Wear Inns and ensure it goes from strength to strength, providing great value, all day, every day.”
Wear Inns chairman and co-founder John Sands said: “John Weir is sadly missed but in Simon we have someone who shares his passion to grow an effective business and give customers exactly what they want. He has done a terrific job on an interim basis and the board is delighted to confirm his position as Managing Director.”