Omicron fears cut Christmas drinks sales by a quarter

Britain’s On Premise drinks sales fell over Christmas as consumers reined in celebrations in pubs, bars and restaurants, CGA’s data reveals.

The Drinks Recovery Tracker shows average drinks sales by value in Britain’s managed pubs, bars and restaurants in the three weeks to New Year’s Day were 25% below the same period two years ago.

 

Footfall was hit particularly hard in the run-up to Christmas, as the government implemented Plan B measures and many consumers avoided social occasions. In the seven days to Saturday 18 December, drinks sales were down by 28% on 2019, and they plunged even further in the week to Christmas Day, at 32% down.

 

Sales picked up a little in the week between Christmas and New Year as consumers became more confident about going out, to sit 13% below 2019 levels. But the latest trading figures complete a very tough December for drinks sales in pubs, bars and restaurants, after drops of 13% and 14% in the first two weeks of the month.

 

Trading on key festive dates demonstrates the huge impact of COVID-19 on big celebratory occasions. Drinks sales on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were 23% and 19% below the same days in 2019, while New Year’s Eve was 23% down.

 

The Drinks Recovery Tracker also highlights the heavy impact of trading restrictions in Scotland and Wales. Sales here over the three-week Christmas period were down by 40% and 31% respectively on 2019—a steeper slide than the 25% in England, where restrictions were less severe.

 

As was the case for most of 2021, spirits out-performed other categories over the festive season—largely thanks to the popularity of cocktails among consumers still celebrating in the On Premise. Over the three-week period spirits sales were 21% down on 2019, ahead of beer (down 26%), cider (down 27%), wine (down 31%) and soft drinks (down 26%). A rare bright spot could be found in spirits sales over the last week of 2021, which were 2% ahead of 2019 levels as drinkers made up for some of the festive occasions that had been lost before Christmas.

 

“For the second successive December, COVID-19 concerns and trading restrictions have significantly impacted drinks sales and stalled the On Premise’s recovery,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “Christmas is the time when businesses generate the cash they need to sustain them through the next few months, but with many consumers still staying away, staff absences mounting and costs rising, many now face a very tough January. Grants to help compensate for lost sales have been welcome, but more government support is needed to protect thousands of businesses and jobs.”

 

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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