There were two winners in the Rugby World Cup, it seems – New Zealand and the pub trade. While England going a teensy bit further in the tournament would have been even better, beer and pub company Fuller’s said it still got a nice lift from the tournament. Like-for-like sales at the southeast-focused firm’s tenanted pubs were up 5.8% in the first 33 weeks of the year (i.e. including the Rugby World Cup).
That healthy result wasn’t built entirely on the good fortune of having a major international sporting event taking place in its backyard, however. In the 26 weeks to September 26 (so not including the World Cup), revenues at Fuller’s rose 10% to £177.7m, while pre-tax profits after exceptional items rose by the same margin to £21.6m.
One area of promise is the family brewer’s clever strategy of riding the craft beer phenomenon exemplified by Brewdog (read Brewdog founder James Watt’s somewhat impolite thoughts on the suggestion of selling his company to a major commercial brewer here). Sales volumes of Fuller’s craft beer Frontier are doubling year on year, while its acquisition of the distribution rights to American brew Sierra Nevada has ‘helped to open new doors and give us access to a different customer base’.
Chief executive Simon Emeny seemed fairly cheery - ‘I look forward to the rest of the year with optimism’ - on the basis of strong pub and brewing results, but it seems an early Christmas present from chancellor George Osborne would make him even happier.
Talking to the FT, Emeny said that revenues from beer duty, which is over ten times that paid in Germany, have actually risen in recent years since Osborne began making modest cuts to the duty in his budgets. And, oh look, there’s another one coming next week in the form of the Autumn Statement...
‘The chancellor has accepted that the previous government did a lot of damage by increasing beer duty,’ Emeny said. ‘[The government] understands the benefits of making beer more accessible and attractive.’