UK’s largest ten-pin bowling group reports a drastic plunge in sales

First published in Business

The UK’s biggest ten-pin bowling group, Georgica, yesterday reported a further plunge in sales as it battles against a fall in consumer spending.

The group, which owns ten-pin bowling centres across the country, including in Sunderland and York, said like-for-like sales fell £1.7m to £17m in the 13 weeks to March 29 – a fall of nine per cent. It said trading was also affected by the timing of this year’s late Easter.

But Georgica said efforts to cut costs had helped limit falls in comparable underlying earnings, down by £300,000 at £3.2m compared with the same period last year.

The sales slide marks a worsening picture on the 3.3 per cent drop seen last year, which escalated in November and December.

Sales over the Christmas and New Year period fell 5.3 per cent, although Georgica said at the time that trading had not been as bad as feared.

It has been slashing costs to help offset the trading difficulties and was recently in talks over a potential sale after receiving approaches from trade buyers and private equity firms.

But it said last month the talks were off after failing to receive a “satisfactory” offer and has since embarked on a restructuring instead to return cash to shareholders.

At a court meeting and extraordinary general meeting, following the firm’s annual meeting yesterday, shareholders voted to accept a scheme to reorganise the company as a wholly-owned subsidiary of a newly-incorporated parent company, named Essenden Public Limited Company, in order to facilitate the return of cash to shareholders.

The expected timetable would see May 20 as the last day of dealings in Georgica shares and May 26 as the first day of trading in Essenden shares on the Alternative Investment Market.

Georgica has refocused the business on the ten-pin bowling operation over the past two years, selling off its Rileys snooker and pool arm, while it also completed a sale and leaseback of its leasehold bowling outlets.

It used some of the cash to refurbish its ten-pin centres, while also overhauling the portfolio in a move that has seen it sell and close five sites, while opening four centres.

Georgica now owns 38 tenpin bowling centres, making it the biggest ten-pin bowling operator in the UK.

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