Urbium blames heat for hard day's night

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The Independent Online

The nightclub operator Urbium blamed the July and August heatwave for a 5 per cent drop in like-for-like sales since the end of June.

However, in the first half of the year there was a 24 per cent increase in underlying profits. Robert Cohen, Urbium's managing director, said sales had just returned to the levels of a year ago in the last week but added that "market conditions are still tough" and that he was "not expecting fireworks" for the remainder of the year.

The announcement follows similar drops in summer sales reported last week by rival, Luminar, as bars and nightclubs struggled to attract customers in the hotter weather.

Mr Cohen offered better news for the important Christmas period, with early indications showing advance bookings up on the same period last year.

The company reported an interim pre-tax profit before exceptional items and goodwill of £3.1m, compared with £2.5m last year, for the six months to the end of June. Bottom-line profits were £2.5m, from a £1.5m loss last year. Turnover increased by 26 per cent to £31.25m with particularly strong performances from the company's Tiger Tiger brand where like-for-like sales were up 4 per cent on a year ago.

Mr Cohen said that the company, which also includes the unbranded West End Estates, intends to continue adding operations, with "five or six" new openings likely in 2004.

The first of these will be a smaller format Tiger Tiger in Aberdeen early next year. The company was also likely to further extend its operations in London from its traditional West End base into the City. The company's first operation in the City had proven "a significant success" and three further sites had been secured for 2004.

One analyst said the performance had been resilient but lost sales in the summer were unlikely to be recovered and forecasts would need to be realigned accordingly.

Shares in the company dropped almost 6 per cent yesterday, closing down 28.5p at 461.5p.