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Drinks Sales Flat in the Final Fortnight of March

On Premise drinks sales hovered either side of last year’s levels over the second half of March, CGA by NIQ’s latest Drinks Recovery Tracker data shows.
Average sales by value in managed venues were down by 3% in the seven days to 25 March—the poorest week of 2023 so far. They recovered to finish 4% ahead in the following week to last Saturday (1 April). However, with inflation still in double digits, trading remains well behind March 2022 in real terms.

As is usually the case in the Spring, sales were heavily influenced by the weather. Rain and low temperatures in the week to 25 March compared unfavourably to the sunshine of one year ago, keeping people out of pub beer gardens and terraces. But the weather picked up in the following week, making for more positive comparisons with March 2022.

Day-by-day sales over the last two weeks of March fluctuated from a low of 11% down on 2022 to 15% ahead. Stronger days included Sunday 19 March (up 15%) and Wednesday 29 March (up 12%), when the weather was particularly sunny.

The Drinks Recovery Tracker’s breakdown of sales by category also shows the impact of the weather. In the week to Saturday 25 March, beer (down 1%) and cider (down 16%) suffered because of the lack of outside drinking—but they bounced back the following week to finish 5% and 10% ahead year-on-year respectively.

The wine category (up 11% and 3%) had two good weeks as many people stayed indoors, but spirits (down 13% and 6%) fared badly year-on-year, as they have for most of 2023 so far. Sales of soft drinks (up 3% and down 1%) were broadly flat across the fortnight.

“Small differences in temperature can make a big difference to sales at this time of year—and that’s how it proved in the last two weeks of March,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “A difficult third week of March was followed by a much better final week, highlighting the fragility of year-on-year growth in 2023. Operators and suppliers will be pinning hopes on sunshine over the Easter weekend to bring consumers out to drink and loosen their spending despite the ongoing cost of living challenges.”