Pubs and bars achieved solid drinks sales in the first half of May as consumers enjoyed successive Bank Holiday weekends—but with inflation still in double digits, real-terms growth remains elusive.
CGA by NIQ’s Drinks Recovery Tracker reveals a 5% increase in drinks sales in managed venues in the week to last Saturday (13 May), compared to the same week in 2022. Trading flourished on the Sunday and Monday of the special long Coronation weekend (7 and 8 May). However, it softened in the aftermath, with a double whammy of cool weather and rail strikes pushing sales from Tuesday to Saturday (9 to 13 May) well below the levels of last year. Last week’s trading followed a solid fortnight in late April and early May, the Tracker shows. Sales in the week to Saturday 29 April were almost exactly level with the same week in 2022—completing a solid if unspectacular first quarter of the year. Over the following seven days to Saturday 6 May, which included the May Day Bank Holiday, they were up by 9%. While cumulative figures for the last three weeks represent a decent year-on-year improvement, all three are below the current rate of inflation. They are in line with the modest growth in managed groups’ total sales that has been recorded by the Coffer CGA Business Tracker since the start of 2023. Sales by drinks category in the most recent week followed the patterns set in the first quarter of this year. Wine sales were 7% up on the same week in 2022 in another strong year-on-year performance—albeit against weak comparatives. Beer (up 7%), cider (up 5%) and soft drinks (up 5%) all enjoyed a strong Coronation weekend but then dipped. Spirits sales were up by only 1% as the category continued to struggle against 2022, when many consumers were celebrating the full post-COVID-19 reopening of the On Premise with cocktails and shots. “After a bumper Coronation weekend it was no great surprise to see something of a sales hangover in the days that followed,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “Consumers are clearly keeping a close eye on their spending in all areas, especially since we’ve enjoyed three Bank Holidays in five weeks. But with all our consumer research pointing to a desire to prioritise spending on eating and drinking out over other discretionary areas, we can be cautiously optimistic of more solid growth as we move into the summer.”