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Christmas Drinks Sales On A Knife-Edge After Slow November

Year-on-year drinks sales in Britain’s On Premise were down again last week—though the 2022 football World Cup made for difficult comparatives.

7CGA by NIQ’s Daily Drinks Tracker shows average sales in managed venues in the week to last Saturday (2 December) were 2% behind the equivalent week in 2022. It means year-on-year growth has now been below 1% in six of the last seven weeks, broken only by strong trading around Halloween and Bonfire Night.

Trading suffered in the context of a big week for pubs and bars in December 2022, when England and Wales met in the World Cup. Nevertheless, there was year-on-year growth on four of the seven days of the week, peaking at 11%on Sunday (26 November). Saturday trading was 2% ahead, continuing the recent pattern of solid weekend sales.

The World Cup comparatives meant LAD categories struggled for growth, with beer sales down 0.3% and cider down 2.8%. Soft drinks (down 4%) and spirits (down 8%) were in decline too, but wine (up 1%) continued something of a resurgence in 2023.

“It’s frustrating that drinks sales continue to hover just below last year’s levels, but the World Cup makes meaningful comparisons hard,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA by NIQ’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “Consumers remain eager to enjoy drinking in pubs and bars, but the lingering cost of living crisis and Aslef member rail strikes are two significant threats to festive footfall. Having said that, 29% of operator business leaders are seeing Christmas bookings ahead of last year, with only 15% saying reservations are down. So, there are also reasons to be positive about the festive trading period, which can make or break the year for many restaurants, pubs and bars