Merlin reports marginal improvement in trading

Merlin reports marginal improvement in trading

Alton Towers owner Merlin Entertainments, which was fined a record £5 million following last year’s Smiler rollercoaster crash, today reported marginally improved trading in the face of difficult market conditions.

The company saw like-for-like revenue growth of 1.3% for the 38 weeks ending September 17, including the key July and August peak summer months.

This came despite “challenging conditions” in a number of the markets the business operates in.

Merlin saw difficult trading in certain key markets for its city centre Midway Attractions operating group due to security concerns following three years of “unprecedented levels of volatility”.

“This continues to have a significant impact on Midway London, the largest division within the operating group, where visitor volumes have also yet to see any material benefit of sterling weakening to current levels,” the company said.

Merlin saw “emerging recovery” in its resort theme parks division and continued growth in Legoland parks.

A potential new Midway brand under the name Little Big City was announced in a trading update this morning.

Chief executive Nick Varney said: "Merlin continues to deliver overall revenue growth despite challenging trading conditions in certain key markets, testament to a diversified portfolio and a strong new business development strategy across all three operating groups.  

“Trading across the existing estate has been mixed. Our resort theme parks operating group is now showing year on year revenue growth, reflecting the ongoing recovery in trading at Alton Towers.

“In Midway Attractions, London in particular continues to suppress overall trading performance as we are yet to see any significant benefit from the depreciation of sterling, while the growth in Legoland Parks reflects a tough comparative period in 2015 and a more challenging market in Florida.”

He added: “On Tuesday we were fined £5 million for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act related to The Smiler incident at Alton Towers in June 2015.

“From the beginning the company has accepted full responsibility for the accident and strived to support all those injured in every way possible.

“We have learned every lesson from what happened last year and made a number of technical and procedural improvements to make sure that an accident like this cannot happen again.

“Both the judge and the Health and Safety Executive acknowledge we have a good overall track record in safety and we remain committed to achieving the highest standards in this area.”

Varney said: “In February of this year, we set out our new business development milestones for 2020. As previously stated, we continue to make good progress against these in terms of both new openings and pipeline development.

“Accordingly, we are excited to announce today the pilot of a new, internally developed brand: 'Little Big City' - an imaginative recasting of the ever popular miniature world attraction format.

“Launching first in Berlin in 2017, 'Little Big City' will be the new and interactive way to experience a city's history, culture and individuality, using a unique combination of traditional and modern special effects, storytelling and model cityscapes.

“The successful launch of this new brand will create further optionality within the Midway roll out programme to support the delivery of our 2020 strategic milestone of opening an additional 40 Midway attractions."

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