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14th September 2022

Liberation Group – Trading Update

13th September 2022

Jonathan Lawson, CEO, Liberation Group:

Liberation Group is pleased to report a strong summer of trading across the UK and the Channel Islands within its pubs, brewing and drinks businesses, including its highest ever single week of revenue during August.  Taking the period of 21st May to the 3rd September 2022 total LFL sales across our Managed Pub Division was +6.3% vs 2021 and +30.0% vs 2019. Sales growth has been driven by an encouraging performance on drinks, a robust performance on food (which was only slightly negative due to the variance in VAT rates YOY in the UK) and record sales in accommodation demonstrating another strong summer of staycation and an encouraging recovery in business and international guests. 

A strong performance in the UK has been added to by an encouraging recovery in Guernsey and Jersey, benefitting from strong tourist demand and a gradual return to office working in St Helier, Jersey.  Our tenanted partners have come out of the pandemic in a strong position, due to our continued support over the last few years, the quality of the assets and the hard work and commitment of our partners and their teams.  As a result, we have seen an encouraging performance which has benefited, in part, from some targeted investment to drive volumes and with some strategic divestments, we are continuing to build a quality tenanted business with a high average EBITDA per pub. 

Within our brewing and drinks division Butcombe has enjoyed a very strong summer including a record August driven by an excellent performance in the Free Trade, with record customer numbers and spend, continued growth of its packaging business and strong sales in our own estate.  OBV volumes were 9.5% up on last year driven by strong demand for our keg portfolio of ales and lagers and we have also been encouraged by the robustness of our cask performance with Butcombe Original on target to achieve top 10 status this year within UK cask ales.  We have also been continuing to innovate in both keg and cask and have been delighted with the response to our new range of small batch cask ales which are at the forefront of taste and flavour profiles and have sold out within a few days of launching.  In September we are launching Tall Tales, our latest addition to our portfolio of keg and bottle beers – a modern Pale Ale drawing inspiration from a famous Bristol tale.  We have also seen an excellent reaction in the market to Goram IPA Zero, recently winning a Gold medal and the Country Winner at the World Beer Awards

Our Guernsey and Jersey drinks businesses have performed robustly within a mature market and once again have demonstrated the value of a diverse group and blend of channels which includes Free Trade, Off Trade and Retail and we have been pleased to see margins maintained providing strong cash generation for the Group.  The partnership with Diageo, agreed in July 2021, has provided us with incremental sales opportunities in both the on and off trade and with a long-term sales growth opportunity. 

We have not been immune to some of the inflation pressures that others have seen within the sector, but believe we are better placed and prepared to manage, mitigate and avoid where possible and balance the need to deliver value for money to our customers whilst also protecting our P&L. Within our managed estate, we have seen strong levels of food inflation, but our local suppliers and dynamic food team have worked together to find alternative products and develop new menus and dishes reducing our exposure to products such as oil where we have seen surges in price.  We are also strongly focussed within our managed estate on the premium customer segments that are better positioned to withstand the cost-of-living crisis.  Elsewhere we have seen the benefits of us becoming more efficient and leveraging the scale and expertise of the Group without compromising on quality and customer service. 

Our marketing activity has continued to add some real tangible benefit to our businesses.  From a position of 65,000 loyalty members in 2019, we have now grown our loyalty club to over 131,000 members and we have also continued to grow our database, which now stands at over 265,000 enabling us to leverage significant value to our businesses by layering up and communicating targeted incentives and offers – from outdoor cinema nights, room offers, supper clubs and our famous loyalty Wednesday food offering. 

With our strategy to continue to improve our customer experience, building on our existing App we have launched a new web-based order and pay capability allowing our customers to choose the way they want to order and pay for their food and drink.  We have also continued to invest in our websites to drive the best customer journeys and to give our customers the right information in the easiest possible way.  With over 1.7million users in the last 12 months we have seen the traffic continue to grow and add significant impact to our pub and retail businesses.  

Like the rest of the hospitality industry recruitment has continued to be a challenge however we have started to gain some positive traction in both retention and recruitment and are far better placed than this time last year as we head into the autumn.  We have worked hard to develop a portfolio of benefits that we feel adds value to our teams and colleagues and are seeing strong levels of engagement and pride in working for Liberation Group.  We firmly believe that our colleagues’ employee experience and wellbeing are what drives the customer experience, and this will remain a firm area of focus moving forward. 

The trading outlook has clearly toughened, with our customers contending with a cost-of-living crisis and ourselves grappling with cost base pressures, the most extreme of which is utilities.  The recently announced support from the government is welcomed and provides some reassurance for our customers, which is important and some short-term de-risking of extreme utility costs for business.  However, even with the support announced, our UK utility costs will double in October. We are keen to understand further details from the government, including longer term utility support and actions to reduce VAT and suspend Business Rates.  Once again, we have cause to be thankful of our Group composition and geography as utility inflation and costs in the Channel Islands has been kept to a manageable level over the next few years which helps blend and balance our overall cost base.

Despite the obvious headwinds for our customers and ourselves, we are confident in our ability to deliver a fantastic Christmas for our customers and ongoing investment into our business is testimony to the belief in our teams and in the potential for our business over the next few years.

Weeks 16 to 31 Total LFL
UK 5.0%
Jersey 6.6%
Guernsey 16.7%
Total 6.3%


Weeks 16 to 31 Drink Sales LFL Food Sales LFL Accommodation LFL Total LFL
UK 17.1% -4.7% 4.0% 5.0%
Jersey 9.0% 1.1% 29.7% 6.6%
Guernsey 13.1% 22.8%   16.7%
Total 14.2% -1.6% 5.7% 6.3%

Pictured: Jonathan Lawson, CEO, Liberation Group

Press release from Propaganda PR.

For further information, please contact Neil Whitehead via