On-trade spirits sales climb over festive period

Drinks sales in Britain’s bars, pubs and restaurants dropped by a quarter in the last three weeks of 2021, however spirits surpassed all categories.

CGA’s Drinks Recovery Tracker compared on-trade drinks data for the three weeks to New Year’s Day with the same period in 2019.

Footfall to pubs, bars and restaurants were affected by the UK government’s Plan B measures as many consumers limited their social interactions.

In the seven days to 18 December, drinks sales fell by 28% on pre-pandemic levels, and plunged further in the following seven-day period by 32%.

Sales rose slightly in the week between Christmas Day and New Year, sitting at 13% below 2019 levels. Drinks sales on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were 23% and 19% below the same days in 2019, while New Year’s Eve declined by 23%.

The first two weeks of December saw on-trade drinks sales fall by 13% and 14%, respectively.

In Scotland, on-trade sales fell by 40% over the three weeks to 1 January 2022, while Wales recorded a 31% drop for the same period. CGA noted that the two nations reported a steeper decline when compared to England’s 25% drop, as restrictions were less severe.

CGA said spirits outperformed over the festive period, and during most of 2021, due to the popularity of cocktails. Over the three-week period, on-trade spirit sales declined by 21% on pre-pandemic levels, ahead of beer (down 26%), cider (down 27%), wine (down 31%) and soft drinks (down 26%).

Furthermore, on-trade spirit sales were up 2% for the last week of 2021, compared to the same period in 2019.

“For the second successive December, Covid-19 concerns and trading restrictions have significantly impacted drinks sales and stalled the on-premise’s recovery,” said 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.”

Pubs, bars and restaurants lost £10,335 (US$14,000) on average in the week leading up to 25 December due to fears over the omicron variant, according to UK Hospitality.

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