Drinks Sales Quartered Over Christmas

Drinks sales for outlets still able to trade in the run-up to Christmas collapsed to barely a quarter of 2019’s levels, CGA’s trading data shows.

The Drinks Recovery Tracker indicates that sales per outlet across Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants in the week to Boxing Day (26 December) were down by 73% on the equivalent week a year earlier.

In the penultimate week before Christmas (to 19 December), sales were down by 76%. Big festive occasions for drinking out over the week—like ‘Mad Friday’ (down 75%) and the last Saturday before Christmas (down 71%)—were a shadow of their 2019 equivalents.

The steep drop in sales followed very strict limits on trading, including a tightening of England’s tiered system that saw more than four in five venues unable to welcome guests. Wales’ licensed trade closed completely just before Christmas, and Scotland remained under very heavy restrictions. Even in venues that were able to trade, caps on the number of people meeting severely reduced drinks sales.

There were a few brighter spots in the week before Christmas, with year-on-year drinks sales on both 23 and 24 December down less severely at 48%. Christmas Eve saw a solid performance for drinks categories like wine (down 6%) and soft drinks (down 31%). Sales of spirits, while down by 58%, were stronger than they have been for much of the last few months.

CGA’s data also showed a final flurry of drinking out on the last day before all venues closed except for takeaways. Sales last Wednesday (30 December) were down just 21% year-on-year, and all alcoholic drinks categories recorded their best day of December.

These figures confirm a devastating December for out-of-home drinks sales,” says Jonny Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “The punishing restrictions across Britain made trading exceptionally difficult at what should have been the busiest time of year for pubs, bars and restaurants.”

However, the rallying of sales on the last day before full lockdown shows that consumers remain eager to drink out. Alongside the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, I am very optimistic that consumers will return with enthusiasm when able to do so.”