‘Freedom day’: One year on

After a rollercoaster ride for the On Premise in the 12 months since ‘Freedom day’, CGA by NielsenIQ’s data shows that drinks sales are now neck-and-neck with pre-COVID-19 levels.

CGA’s weekly Drinks Recovery Tracker revealed a short-term boost in weekly sales after pubs, bars and restaurants were able to trade without restrictions on 19 July 2021. There were notable spikes between September and November as consumers’ enthusiasm for the return of unrestricted drinking out continued into the autumn.


Drinks sales then fell away over December, as the Omicron variant led many consumers to stay at home rather than go out for festive celebrations. However, they rebounded from February, and weekly sales have generally been very close to the equivalent weeks in 2021 ever since.


Across the 12 months, year-on-year sales growth reached a peak in early June, thanks to extra holidays for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Trading hit a low in the last week before Christmas, when sales were 29% below the level of December 2019.


While sales this summer are now roughly level with 2019, growth has been affected by high levels of inflation, which has topped 9% in May and June. This means total trading over the last 12 months has been well below pre-COVID-19 in real terms.


On a category basis, spirits sales have run ahead of other segments in nearly every week since Freedom Day. They benefited in particular from the reopening of the late-night sector after months of restrictions, and from the release of pent-up demand for cocktails and up-tempo drinking occasions.


Trends in beer and soft drinks have in line with total drinks sales, but cider has fluctuated from week to week, with consumers’ interest linked very closely to the weather at the time. The wine category has struggled to recover since restrictions ended, with sales below the levels of 2019 in every single week since Freedom Day.


“Our weekly data has been the definitive measure of hospitality’s turbulent 12 months since ‘Freedom day’,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “The highs and lows have put a huge pressure on suppliers and operators, and surging costs, labour problems and the cost-of-living crisis have all added further strain. We know that the On Premise has a bright future, but unfortunately the trading turmoil remains with us for now.”


CGA’s sales measurement service provides up-to-the-minute insights into On Premise drinks sales, including category, supplier and brand rate of sale performance versus pre-COVID-19 sales. To learn more, contact jonathan.jones@cgastrategy.com.




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