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Festive fillip for on-trade

Published:  16 January, 2014

Festive celebrations saw like-for-like sales at 27 of the UK's pub and bar groups up 3.3% on last year, with experts predicting strong first quarter sales for 2014.

Total sales were ahead 6.1% for the six weeks to January 4, according to the latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker.

London led the party, with like-for-likes 4.4% ahead of last year, and wet-led venues 6.5% up on 2012's festive season.

Peter Martin of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker along with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS, said that even in drink-led venues food sales saw the highest growth. "Food sales in those pubs were up overall 5.8%, compared to 3.2% for drink. While London pubs had an especially merry time, outside of the M25 it was casual dining restaurant chains that had the best of the seasonal business, with like-for-like sales up 4% on 2012," said Martin.

The figures look especially good given last year's Christmas trading was adversely affected by snow and freezing temperatures. But despite that, Martin said the three weeks from December 15 were very busy. "Putting that in context, monthly figures for December alone show a 3% like-for-like sales increase and 5.8% total market growth, making it the single biggest monthly increase since last February," he said.

Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: "Pub and restaurant sales are - for the first time - increasing in real terms and these figures show that sales are catching up with the country's increasing 'feel good' factor. 

Sheehan added that leisure is continuing to attract investment and predicted that sales would remain strong for the first quarter of 2014 and beyond.

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at Baker Tilly, said the year-on-year sales growth of 6.1% "demonstrates clear outperformance of the wider economy and suggests that the UK's recovery is well and truly consumer-led".