Year-on-year drinks sales fell again at the beginning of December but there were brighter spots of trading to raise hopes for a strong Christmas and New Year.

CGA by NIQ’s Daily Drinks Tracker shows average sales in managed venues in the week to last Saturday (9 December) were 9% behind the same week last year. Growth has now topped 1% just once in the last eight weeks.

Daily figures from the Tracker show how comparisons are skewed by the World Cup. Sales were down by 19% and 26% on Sunday and Saturday (3 and 9 December), as the comparative days in 2022 brought two knock-out matches for England—the second of which was one of the biggest trading days of the year.

While last week’s sales couldn’t hit those heights, there were signs of decent Christmas footfall in between, with year-on-year growth of between 1% and 4% from Monday to Thursday (4 to 7 December) and 6% on the Friday. These numbers may provide better indications of the growth that might be expected in the crucial final few weeks of 2023.

World Cup comparatives meant LAD categories struggled last week, with beer and cider sales down 9% and 13%. Soft drinks (down 1%) and wine (up 1%) were flat, while spirits (down 19%) had another challenging week.

“The World Cup of last December makes year-on-year comparisons difficult, but midweek performance suggests modest average growth in drinks sales at the moment,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA by NIQ’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “As festive occasions ramp up, operators and suppliers must hope that the weather and rail strikes don’t affect footfall. Total real-terms growth will be very hard won, but venues that strike the right balance of quality and value can look forward to a profitable Christmas.