The Brighton Pier Group, formerly Eclectic Bar Group, has hailed a "strong financial performance" in its half-year results, which include the first summer's trading at Brighton Palace Pier, which Eclectic acquired in April last year for £18m.
Figures for the six months to 25 December 2016 showed a 65% increase in sales to £17.8m, and a 783% increase in profits before tax, up to just under £2.7m, thanks in large part to the acquisition.
In addition to Brighton Palace Pier, which has wide range of attractions including two arcades and over 12 amusement rides, together with a variety of on-site hospitality and catering facilities, Brighton Pier Group also runs a group of 14 bars aimed at students and young professionals, under brands including Embargo Republica, Lola Lo, Sakura, Po Na Na, Fez Club, Lowlander, Smash and Coalition.
The group operates as two separate divisions, with Anne Martin leading the pier division and Leigh Nicolson leading the bars division.
In the bar division, the company has focused on reducing operating costs and improving gross margins. The company said gross margin had improved by 80 basis points against the same period last year. Six sites have been disposed of since June 2016.
It has also launched a new venue within the group's Reading Sakura venue called Smash, which trades during post-work hours and in the evening with a menu that includes fresh-dough pizza and craft beer. In addition, the venue provides activity areas for customers to enjoy games of ping pong with friends and to watch major sporting events on large screens. The company said Smash was trading ahead of management expectations and it was looking at other potential rebrands of locations within the estate.
In the pier divison, there was the launch in September 2016 of a new soft play trial in the Glitter Bar, a new takeaway fish and chip shop on the Pier head, and the launch of the new website. The success of the soft play trial has resulted in the business launching the largest soft play area in Brighton, with the creation of a new ‘Palace Play' in the Dome, totalling 231m sq with a capacity for 140 children. There will also be a new café in the Dome, providing an area for parents. The soft play and café opened in March 2017. The new take away fish and chip shop opened in June 2016 and has been a great success, repaying its investment by the end of the first summer of trading.
In December, the company also launched its first Christmas market on the Pier. Incorporating 20 stalls, it provided a reason to visit during the Pier's winter season and generated additional footfall for restaurants, arcades and rides during what would be otherwise a quiet period. The business said it planned to develop the market further next year.
Plans are now underway to create more capacity within the Palm Court restaurant and in Victoria's Bar, both inside and outside. The company is also developing plans for Horatio's Bar, utilising the broader group's expertise of bar management. These developments will start in October and November of this calendar year, and impact trading from 2018.
Commenting on the results, Luke Johnson, executive chairman said: "This has been a transformational period for the group. The acquisition of Brighton Palace Pier has delivered a strong financial performance for the group with its first summer trading period in this half year set of results. I believe there are exciting opportunities to further develop the Pier business over the coming years. We continue to make good progress rationalising the bars division together with driving operational and financial improvements across the estate. We expect trading to continue to be in-line with market expectations through the seasonally quieter second half as management executes the group's strategy."
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