Average sales by value were ahead on each of the seven days to 3 December, delivering an eleventh week of year-on-year growth in a row. Uplifts peaked at 64% on 29 November, the day of the game between England and Wales. However, the latest sales figures benefit from comparisons with last December, when lingering concerns about COVID kept some people away from festive occasions in the On Premise. Against the same period in 2019—the last comparable pre-COVID Christmas—sales were 8% down. With inflation now exceeding 11%, trading is substantially further behind in real terms. The World Cup has been very good news for beer and cider sales, which were up year-on-year by 16% and 19% respectively last week. Growth was more muted in soft drinks (up 10%), wine (up 5%) and spirits (down 8%)—and sales in all categories were behind the same week in 2019. “This should be the best December for the On Premise in three years, but comparisons with the pre-COVID levels of 2019 show how trading remains tough,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland.
“The squeeze on consumers’ spending continues to tighten, and forthcoming rail strikes will have a significant effect on many operators at the most important time of their year. While the World Cup is a welcome bonus for many pubs and bars, it is unlikely to be enough to deliver the real-terms growth that the On Premise operators and suppliers need.”