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Britain loses 30% of nightclubs since COVID as consumers' late-night habits evolve


COVID and changing consumer habits have led to a sharp drop in Britain's nightclubs as consumers' high tempo* habits diversify and shift towards a broader range of outlet types and periods of the day, according to new research from CGA by NIQ.


CGA and AlixPartner's latest Hospitality Market Monitor reveals a 30.0% net decline in nightclubs between the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and June 2023. This is more than double the 13.0% drop in all licensed premises over the same period. Ten years ago, Britain had nearly 1,700 nightclubs, but in June the total was barely half that at 873.


The sharp decline reflects the impact of long periods of COVID-related closures of nightclubs, which were among the last venues to emerge from trading restrictions. It also follows longer term changes in people's habits that have diversified the late-night market and increased the popularity of competitive socialising venues and other experience-led and immersive concepts. Despite the significant losses among nightclubs, the market has seen a growing diversity of alternative high-tempo experiences, and bar numbers have fallen by only 3.1% since March 2020 - a fraction of the 30.0% drop in nightclubs.


CGA's forthcoming report into the evolution of high tempo occasions outlines the changes in demand for nightclubs, bars and other venues, and emphasises the enduring appeal of high tempo occasions which are evolving across dayparts, not just late-night. There's also increased interest in experiential experiences within hospitality, as research from CGA's REACH Global Survey shows half of global consumers plan to visit venues that offer an exciting experience, with street food/pop-up markets and food and drink festivals also showing popularity with over half of consumers (57%).


The Report provides many more insights into the sector to help suppliers and operators grow sales. Well over half (57%) say they are most likely to try new drinks brands on higher tempo visits, which creates opportunities for suppliers to encourage trial and trade-up, especially in the spirits and cocktails categories.


Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ's director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: "COVID-19 hit nightclubs harder than any other licensed sector, and lockdowns were the final straw for hundreds of venues. But our research shows the late-night market isn't disappearing - it's just changing. Bars, pubs, competitive socialising venues and other new leisure concepts all now rival nightclubs, giving consumers a greater choice of venues than ever. Young adults remain eager for big nights out with their friends, and while clubs are still a part of their mix they are also open to alternatives that deliver memorable social experiences and good value."


Graeme Smith, AlixPartners' managing director, said: "This latest data highlights just how severely the night-time industry has been impacted by both the pandemic, changing consumer behaviour and increasing competition in the late night market with consumers looking for more immersive experiences (including competitive socialising).


"We've seen a recent explosion of experiential bar and restaurant concepts across the industry, and with bars and other venues also now staying open later into the early hours, consumers have a wide array of experiences and options to choose from. As the industry becomes increasingly dynamic, these venues need to compete more than ever to become the late-night experience of choice, whilst keeping evolving consumer habits front of mind."


*High tempo: A 'lively' occasion such as a night out, pub/bar crawl, bottomless brunch, ticketed event (eg seeing live music/DJ) etc.

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