Marston’s boss calling for VAT cut to help its pubs survive
A call has come from a leading brewing and pubs chief for the Government to urgently cut the rate of VAT to aid the hospitality industry.
Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Wolverhampton-based Marston's, said: "We will be calling for a reduction in VAT to five per cent – that is what the industry is going to need."
Mr Findlay said the Government had got to do something imaginative to stimulate consumer spending.
He said that the step needed to be immediate.
"People may say the Government has other priorities and needs the money from tax revenue, but at the moment it is getting zero tax from the sector," he explained.
"There needs to be imagination shown to bring in some tax money in the medium term."
Mr Findlay said that a cut in beer duty also needed to be considered.
"We have the highest rate of beer duty in Europe and there needs to be scope to look a flexibility on beer duty to help pubs reopening from July 4," he added.
Marston's, which is set to open 80 to 90 per cent of its pubs and restaurants on July 4, has had a boost during lockdown from sales of bottled and canned beers.
"Sales to the off trade were up 55 per cent which was huge really. We were seeing Chirstmas levels of sales every single week," added Mr Findlay.
"That helped our cash flow and was also good for out beer brands which increased their market share. It was a great performance."
He said Marston's was excited to be reopening pubs and restaurants.
"It will be nice to be again doing what this business is all about – hospitality – and to have a business that is viable again from July 4," he said.
"It will be challenging over the next few months to see how it all pans out.
"Our priorities are the health and safety of guests and employees – we have got to be responsible, sensible and sensitive to other people's view about our industry - and to be viable.
"We have got to get back to some kind of normality quickly."
Marston's took a £40 million hit to overall sales from the coronavirus lockdown with underlying pre-tax profit down to £9.4 million for the six months to March 28 with rising costs and changing consumer habits.
To combat the impact from the coronavirus outbreak, Marston's furloughed more than 13,000 employees, cut management pay and suspended dividend payments this year.
Marston's is set to combine its brewing business with Carlsberg UK after shareholders voted in favour of creating the Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company, which will have its headquarters in Wolverhampton.