,UK

SSP Group losses hit £300m as travel restrictions take toll

Sandwich and coffee sales were down 79%.

SSP Group, the owner of Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza brands, slumped to a £300 million pre-tax loss in the six months to the end of March, as lockdown-induced travel restrictions kept customers away from its outlets.

The London-listed company said sales of takeaway sandwiches and coffees plunged by 79% to just under £257 million, down from £1.2 billion a year earlier.

The easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK and US had led to an improvement in trading since the end of March, SSP said, citing higher customer demand as more people began to travel for leisure. Sales in the first week of June, however, remained 70% lower than the same period in 2019.

The group has reopened a further 250 units since the end of March, taking the total of trading outlets to 1,150, which represents 40% of its 2,800 branches globally. It plans to reopen 1,500 outlets in the summer, anticipating a recovery in customer demand.

Whilst SSP expects domestic and leisure travel to recover during the rest of the year, they project like-for-like revenues to return to pre-COVID levels until 2024.

New travel restrictions in countries including India and Thailand, which have been dealing with new waves of coronavirus infections, have also affected SSP’s trading.

“The recovery in domestic and leisure travel has now begun in a number of our territories, and our teams are busy reopening units in line with passenger demand,” SSP Group chief executive Simon Smith said. “We have a strong balance sheet and can see many opportunities to accelerate growth as the market recovers and to deliver sustainable growth for the benefit of all our stakeholders.”

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