SHARES in Goals Soccer Centres plunged more than nine per cent after the company admitted it was “highly cautious” over its second half outlook amid pressure on consumer spending.

The warning came as the five-a-side football pitch operator reported a 26 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to £2.6 million for the six months ended June 30.

The company, based in East Kilbride, now expects sales growth to be slower than anticipated during the remainder of the year, conceding that its return to profitable growth is taking longer than anticipated.

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But Goals underlined its confidence in a new US joint venture with City Football Group, owner of Manchester City, adding sales were improving in UK sites where it has been investing in better pitches and facilities.

Goals, which operates 48 centres in the UK and two in California, has become the latest UK-listed consumer business to warn of the impact of eroding consumer confidence, with inflation continuing to surge and real wage growth in reverse.

Ultimate Products, the company behind the Russell Hobbs kitchen appliance brand, saw its shares plummet more than 50 per cent on Monday after it reported consumers’ “discretionary spend is under pressure and confidence is therefore lower than it has been for some time”.

Goals saw like for like sales grew by 1.6 per cent for the first half, compared with a two per cent fall in the first half of 2016.

That came as operating costs increased by £1m over the first half due to investment in its clubs and head office resources to support expansion, including its joint venture with CFG, and cost headwinds such as the national living wage and business rates. It is anticipated those costs will “normalise” in the second half.

Goals’ chief executive Mark Jones said: “While we see sales growing in the second half, and we are already seeing that after 10 weeks, we are being cautious about the outlook. We are not immune to what is happening in the wider consumer market.”

Asked how waning consumer confidence was manifesting itself, Mr Jones said if the business was planned around “high single digit like for like growth going forward that would not be reflecting where the consumer is.”

However he added Goals was well positioned in a competitive market in terms of cost per play, in the £5 to £10 range, and on its food and drink prices.

“We are in a strong position to drive sales – we just don’t want to be over-ambitious about them in the current environment,” he said. “We have seen sales growth in those first 10 weeks, it is just not what we anticipated at the start of the year.”

But he added: “In the business environment that is out there, posting 12 months’ worth of sales growth is a positive. That’s come directly from the investment.”

Mr Jones underlined the transformational potential of its US joint venture with CFG, which has brought $16m of capital to fund its expansion across the Atlantic.

Asked if the company had a fixed target for outlet numbers in the US, Mr Jones said while the company was proceeding one site at a time, he does not see why the market could not support “many tens” of outlets in the States.

The Los Angeles area is the main focus for now, with the construction of its third site in California now under way and a fourth due to begin in the first quarter of next year.

Mr Jones sees potential for Goals in states such as Texas and Florida. And he refused to rule out moves in the long term into markets such as Melbourne, Japan and Uruguay, where the Abu Dhabi-owned CFG owns other clubs, although he emphasised the joint venture is for the US only.

In the UK, Mr Jones pointed to the improved sales performance at sites where it has invested in pitch quality and a strong consumer response to its Club 2020 concept, which has been piloted in three sites. One has been trialled in Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow.

Mr Jones declined to comment on whether the company had held any discussions with Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct over potential commercial tie-ups. Sports Direct has been building its stake in recent weeks, and now holds 17.6 per cent of Goals’ shares.

Shares in Goals closed down 9.5p at 94.5p.