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22 January, 2008 - 02:35 By Staff Reporter

Sales dip at Wetherspoon

The smoking ban may have finally caught up with pub operator, JD Wetherspoon, as the company reports a three per cent drop in like-for-like sales in the second quarter.

 The Watford-based group said that strong food sales growth failed to sufficiently offset a drop in bar sales, as a reduction in sales of premium lagers and spirits has given rise to an upturn in sales of real ale, food and coffee. In a statement released ahead of its second half results which are expected in early March, the pub group said that in the year to date, like for like sales had decreased by 2 per cent, while overall company sales increased by 0.4 per cent. It also said that while it had previously reported a drop in its operating margins by 0.6 per cent, it expected the outcome for the half year to be slightly favourable to this primarily as a result of lower energy and repairs costs. The company gave a slightly reduced forecast of the number of new pub openings during the year, adding a further 25 to the ten opened so far. It also emphasised an element of uncertainty and caution resulting from the smoking bans introduced last year, adding that it was confident that a non-smoking environment would result in growth in both bar and food categories in the medium and long term. Shares in Wetherspoon have seen a marginal two per cent drop on the news, falling 5.5p to 287p.

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