Wetherspoons sales drain as older drinkers reluctant to return to the pub

Orders of ales and stouts at JD Wetherspoon have plunged as older drinkers stay at home, while remote working is hurting sales of breakfasts.

Despite a surge in popularity of cocktails and spirits from younger customers such as students, the pub chain recorded a slide in quarterly revenues.

Founder Tim Martin warned that hard trading conditions were unlikely to improve until spring next year.

“With no music in Wetherspoon pubs, a material proportion of our trade comes from older customers, some of whom have visited pubs less frequently in recent times,” said Mr Martin, who was vocal in his call to end lockdowns.

“There have been no outbreaks of Covid-19 among customers in Wetherspoon pubs.

“However, some customers have been understandably cautious.”

He said the chain’s sales were “to some extent” now reliant on the pandemic receding and admitted that booster vaccinations and warmer spring weather would ease pressure on the horizon.

Overall like-for-like sales were down by 8.9pc during the 15 weeks to November 7 compared to the same period last year.

The pub chain, which also owns Lloyds No 1, blamed a lack of older customers for a 20pc fall in sales of stouts and 30pc drop in traditional ales.

The rise of home working also contributed to a 22pc drop in sales of breakfasts and a 30pc drop in those for coffee, while revenue from slot machines also declined.

In some relief, the FTSE 250 firm said sales of drinks favoured by younger customers had surged, with cocktails up 45pc, rum up 26pc and vodka up 17pc.

Trading in cities, meanwhile, was mixed – Liverpool, Oxford, Newcastle and Nottingham all recorded a rise in sales, while those in London tumbled by 17pc.

The gloomy update sent shares in the company plunging by as much as 5.8pc – the worst level in more than two weeks.