Thirst For Beer As Drink Sales Pick Up

Out-of-home drinks sales are continuing to nudge upwards after the end of lockdown, with pubs and beer in most demand so far.

Those are among the findings in CGA’s latest Drinks Recovery Tracker, which shows that sales in the week to last Saturday (25 July) were 37% down on the same week in 2019. While well below normal levels, it is a solid improvement of six percentage points on the previous week, when sales were 43% down.

The recovery has been led by pubs, where sales were down by a third (34%) year-on-year. This is a better performance than restaurants (down 45%), though there are signs that the gap is narrowing.

Beer and cider sales continue to outperform the market, as consumers seek draught products on their return to drinking-out. Beer sales were down by a quarter (27%) year-on-year, but drops were much steeper in wine (down 42%), soft drinks (down 43%) and spirits (down 51%). Again, there is evidence that the gaps are closing as consumers start to settle back into pre-lockdown habits in their out-of-home drinking.

The Drinks Recovery Tracker suggests that many consumers continue to avoid busy times when drinking out, with Sunday and Monday (19 and 20 July) the best performing days of the week relative to 2019. Wireless Social’s sample of footfall in more than 1,000 locations confirms that Sunday was the most popular day, with numbers down by 50.7% on pre-coronavirus levels in February.

Over the seven days to last Saturday (25 July), average footfall was down by 58.2%—a slight drop after four successive weeks of improvement. The introduction of the compulsory wearing of face masks in shops, along with cool weather, is likely to have held down footfall—but many locations should benefit from a forecast of higher temperatures over the rest of this week and next.

Beer sales have benefited from the faster reopening of pubs than restaurants. CGA’s latest Outlet Index data shows that nearly three quarters (71%) of pubs are now back up and running, compared to only half (50%) of restaurants and even fewer bars (46%), where wine and spirits tend to be in heavier demand.

Across the on-trade, 57% of pre-lockdown sites were open by 25 July. This is up by six percentage points week-on-week, and a sign that the sector is moving up through the gears after being given the green light to reopen. Numbers were boosted by a wave of reopenings in Scotland, where nearly half (46%) of sites are now operating, and a similar lift can be expected soon in Wales. Only three in ten (30%) Welsh sites are currently open, but the resumption of indoor operations on 3 August will push that number higher.