Hospitality sales up in the Republic of Ireland although consumer spending compromised

CGA by NIQ’s research in Ireland’s On Premise reveals operators and suppliers achieved solid growth in drinks sales in the first quarter of 2024.

The expert overview of sales trends from CGA’s On Premise Measurement solution shows sales were €54m higher than in the first three months of 2023. While the number of outlets fell by 2.4% after closures, rate of sale (ROS) increased by 2.4%. Sales were particularly strong in March, which brought key events including St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and the end of the Six Nations rugby tournament, which was won by Ireland.


However, drinks sales by volume were fractionally down year-on-year, and growth was instead powered by an average uplift in prices of 9.7%. Volumes have not yet returned to pre-COVID levels, with totals in the first quarter of 2024 8.6% lower than in the first three months of 2019.


CGA’s Consumer Insights Report for Ireland shows that spending continues to be compromised by the cost-of-living crisis. Two thirds (65%) of consumers say they are moderately or severely affected by rising costs, though March showed that the large majority remain eager to visit pubs, bars and restaurants. Three quarters (77%) agree that eating and drinking out is the treat they most look forward to.


Pressure on spending is leading to some important changes in consumers’ drinking preferences—including a focus on quality over quantity. A third (34%) are willing to buy fewer drinks, but only half as many (18%) are prepared to reduce the quality of their drinks.


With longer serves often perceived as better value for money, some Irish consumers are turning to Long Alcoholic Drinks. The LAD category increased its share of total drinks sales by 1.6 percentage points in the quarter to end-March—driven by stout and cider in particular—while soft drinks gained 0.3 percentage points. Growth came at the expense of spirits categories, which lost 1.9 percentage points of drinks share, with gin recording the highest losses. Nearly a third (31%) of consumers told CGA they are drinking fewer spirits, while just 6% are drinking more.


CGA’s channel analysis reveals pubs have been Ireland’s biggest winners in the first quarter of 2024. Their share of drinks sales increased by 0.9 percentage points in the year to end-March—thanks in large part to family-focused occasions and sports screenings—while restaurants lost 0.5 percentage points. Rural regions of Ireland meanwhile slightly outperformed Dublin, as increased costs led some consumers to move away from city centres for eating and drinking.


Sian Brennan, CGA by NIQ’s client director, Ireland, said: “Despite a slow start to the year because of increased participation in Dry January, it’s been a bright first quarter for Ireland’s pubs, bars and suppliers. Consumers are as keen as ever to eat and drink out—especially on special occasions when memories are made. However, it’s important to note that much of the sales growth has been powered by inflation, and that spending remains tight for many people. All venues and suppliers will need to stay laser-focused on delivering both high-quality and good-value experiences and respond nimbly to people’s changing needs and preferences.”


CGA by NIQ’s Consumer Insights Report and sales measurement solutions provide many more insights into people’s engagement and purchasing decisions across Ireland’s On Premise, with expert analysis of categories, occasions and much more. To discover how they can support winning strategies and explore opportunities for tailored analysis, contact Sian Brennan here.

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