PUBS and brewing group Greene King today toasted record Christmas sales.

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The Bury St Edmunds-based company said like-for-like sales from its key retail pubs division were now up 3.7% for the 36 weeks to January 6, including 4.1% like-for-like growth in food.

Average earnings per pub within its leased, tenanted and franchised pubs business were 4.2% while on the brewing side key brands Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen remain ahead of last year.

Chief executive Rooney Anand said: “Our strong momentum has been maintained over the last six weeks. We achieved record sales through Christmas and the New Year as our teams once again delivered excellent value, service and quality to our customers.

“Pubs continue to play a vital role for customers, families and communities across the UK during the festive period, especially in this difficult financial environment.

“We once again achieved record Christmas bookings and strong like-for-like sales growth across Christmas and the New Year. We achieved record Christmas Day sales of £2.7m, up 6.8%, and during the whole of December, we sold 448,000 Christmas meals, another record for Greene King.”

Total sales in Greene King Retail, the group’s largest and fastest growing business, were up 9.5% after 36 weeks, helped by the addition of 22 sites to the retail estate during the current financial year.

Like-for-like growth in the six weeks over Christmas was lower than that seen during the first half, at 2.8%, but this was against a strong comparative last year when the corresponding period saw 8.8% growth. Along with the strong performance from food, like-for-like room sales were 4.6% up after 36 weeks.

Greene King added that its retail margin remained “strong” and, at the full-year stage, was expected to come in ahead of the previous 12 months.

Alongside the improved sales rend within Pub Partners, the leased, tenanted and franchised business, Greene King said the division’s disposal programme was on track, with 65 non-care sites so far during the current year.

In the Brewing & Brands division, core own-brewed volumes were down 2.0% after 36 weeks, but Greene King said this maintained its outperformance against the total UK ale market which is estimated to be down 4.2%.

Lead brands, Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen were both ahead of last year on the back of continued marketing investment and product innovation, it added.

Looking ahead, Greene King added: “We do not expect conditions for the UK consumer to improve in 2013.

“While this presents ongoing challenges for all consumer-facing businesses, we are confident that our strategy, tailored to the prevailing conditions, and our consistent focus on providing excellent value, service and quality to our customers, will continue to deliver sustainable earnings and dividend growth to our shareholders.”

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