Drinks Sales Dip from Pre-COVID Levels as Working-from-Home Bites

Britain’s On Premise drinks sales stayed just short of the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 last week, CGA’s Drinks Recovery Tracker shows.

Average sales by value in managed venues in the seven days to Saturday (2 July) were 3% down on the same week in 2019. It follows a 7% dip in the previous week, when pubs and bars were disrupted by the national rail strikes. Because year-on-year inflation now stands at 9%, sales are even further behind 2019’s totals in real terms.

Continuing the pattern of recent months, sales were hit particularly hard by a fall in Friday trading. With many people now opting to work from home on Fridays, or reducing their weekend spending as their household costs rise, sales last Friday (1 July) were down by 12% on the same day in 2019.

More positively, some of the sales that have been lost on Fridays are shifting to Thursdays and Saturdays. Drinks sales last Thursday (30 June) were down by only 1% on 2019, and they were just ahead on Saturday (2 July). Earlier in the week, sales were held down by widespread cool weather.

“COVID has triggered a major shift in after-work drinking occasions, and new working patterns are clearly curtailing traditional Friday sales levels,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “We may also be seeing effects of the cost-of-living crisis, leading some consumers to save their weekend pub and bar visits until Saturdays. With spending pressures likely to increase, operators and suppliers will have to work hard to tempt people out in the months ahead. However, consumers are still keen to spend in the sector and are prioritising trips into trade ahead of other discretionary spend, so there is opportunity there for those that meet their demands. Understanding how those demands have changed and how to hit the mark will be the key to success over the summer.”

Spirits sales were up by 7% on 2019 last week, making it the best performing category—as it has been for most of the year so far. Beer and soft drinks were both down by 4%, with wine (down 9%) and cider (down 17%) struggling.