Drinks sales edge up ahead of restrictions easing

Optimism about recovery in the drinking-out market is growing after sales rebounded last week—with the prospect of another boost when COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

CGA’s latest Drinks Recovery Tracker shows average drinks sales by value in Britain’s managed pubs, bars and restaurants in the week to last Saturday (15 January) were 12% below the same week in 2020. While this is still well short of pre-COVID-19 trading, it is a notable improvement on the 18% shortfall in the first full week of January, and a 25% drop in the last three weeks of 2021.


England’s 11% drop in sales last -week was less steep than in Scotland (down 28%) and Wales (down 24%), where restrictions have been tighter. Across Britain, the drop in sales was between 8% and 15% every day of the week.


One of the brightest spots in the Tracker was the 1% increase in spirits sales compared to the same week in 2020—though beer and cider (down 13%), wine (down 22%) and soft drinks (down 16%) all lagged well behind.


With COVID-19 infection rates falling and restrictions due to be eased in England, Scotland and Wales next week—including the particularly damaging vaccine passes and working-from-home guidance—there is cautious confidence that sales will continue to pick up as 2022 goes on.


“After an immensely challenging Christmas it will be a long road back for many drinking-out businesses—but these figures are a very welcome sign that there are better times to come,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “Consumer confidence has grown since the start of the year, and the loosening of constraints should give operators and suppliers another lift—in late-night and after-work drinking occasions in particular. The sector still faces major pressures, but the worst impacts of the pandemic may hopefully now be behind us.”


CGA’s Drinks Recovery Tracker monitors managed outlet sales as the drinking-out market continues to recover, providing category, supplier and brand rate of sale performance versus pre-COVID-19 sales. Suppliers and operators that want to track the recovery of drinks sales, benchmark performance or identify changes in trends and consumer preferences should contact jonathan.jones@cgastrategy.com.

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