Britain’s on-trade began 2023 with a sound week of year-on-year growth, but inflation and intense pressure on people’s spending mean sales are still well below pre-Covid levels.
CGA by NielsenIQ’s Drinks Recovery Tracker shows average sales in the week to Saturday, 7th January, were 24% above the equivalent week in 2022.
However, this comparative week was hampered by ongoing concerns about the Omicron variant of Covid, while the 2023 period is inflated by New Year’s Day and bank holiday trading.
Drinks sales also finished 2% ahead of the same week in 2020, when venues were trading as normal, though after adjustments for inflation, trading is substantially behind.
The data highlights the impact of rail strikes on visits to the on-trade, with sales 17% and 13% down on 2020’s levels on Friday and Saturday respectively, when journeys into cities and towns were severely curtailed.
With many consumers embarking on Dry January, it was a very good week for soft drinks sales, which were 38% and 13%, ahead of the same seven days in 2022 and 2020. Spirits (up 9%), cider (up 7%), and beer (down 1%) had solid weeks compared to 2020, but wine sales were down 10%.
“Year-on-year sales growth was relatively easy against Covid-hit comparatives, but it’s still a pleasing start to 2023,” said Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland.
“Comparisons with pre-Covid-19 patterns are less positive, and we are seeing the results of pressure on consumers’ spending, especially in the aftermath of Christmas. Rail strikes are also curtailing trade, and operators will be hoping for relief on these and the many cost challenges in the weeks ahead.”