Wolves hands back £100m and rebrands as Marston's

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The Independent Online

Wolverhampton & Dudley is to adopt the name of its famous ale Marston's from next year to reinforce its drive to become a national brand.

The Black Country-based brewer and pub operator has used the Wolverhampton & Dudley name for 116 years. Nevertheless the company said that the familiar Marston's brand would emphasise its "tradition, heritage and values".

Ralph Findlay, chief executive of the company, said: "The Marston's brand has much more resonance geographically."

The Marston's brand dates back to 1834, when John Marston founded the brewery before moving production to Burton upon Trent in 1898 following a merger with Thompson's brewery.

Wolverhampton & Dudley, which also brews the Banks and Jennings ales, purchased Marston's in 1999 and has since used the brand to sponsor the England cricket team as well as a host of county cricket clubs across the country.

The company will open around 20 new Marston's pubs a year and will gradually rebrand the majority of its 448 managed pubs and 1,893 pubs that it leases out to tenants over the next three to four years.

The upmarket Pitcher & Piano and Bluu chains will not be affected, while the Jennings brand will be maintained in regions like Cumbria and Northumberland.

The UK beer market has been in decline over the past few years, with more drinkers ordering wine and spirits in pubs. Further pressure is expected when the smoking ban comes into effect in England next July.

However W&D argued that the market for premium ales is outpacing sales of standard brands such as Tetley's and Boddingtons. Mr Findlay also said that the company's decision to focus on "food, families, females and old silver foxes" has proved fruitful, with food sales up 15 per cent over the past year.

Wolverhampton & Dudley notched up a 13 per cent rise in profit over the past year. It said sales over the past eight weeks in its managed pubs have surged over 9 per cent, compared with 2.4 per cent in the previous year, boosted by the good weather and the World Cup.