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Festive period provides cheer for on-trade

Published:  15 January, 2019

Managed pubs and restaurants saw a 4.1% collective like-for-like sales increase across the festive season compared to the same period the prevous year. 

Once again pubs were the star performer with like-for-like sales up 5.1%, while restaurants saw a 2.4% increase in the six weeks to 6 January 2019, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker.

London also benefited more than the rest of Britain, with like-for-like sales up 5% compared to 3.8% outside the M25.

The positive results were in stark contrast to the “gloom hanging over retail”, which according to the British Retail Consortium suffered its worst Christmas for a decade with zero sales growth,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, which produces the Tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM.

“What these Tracker figures suggest is that consumers are being more selective about where they spend their money, and are looking for memorable experiences – like going out for a meal or drink with family or friends over Christmas – rather than just buying ‘things’,” he said.

Drink sales were the major driver of growth in pubs over the period, up 6.4% on last year compared to a 3.6% rise in food sales.

“Premiumisation will be a big part of that, and trading-up appears to have helped restaurants too, as the number of covers served rose only 1.3% from last year,” said Chessell.

“What will be most encouraging for these pub and restaurant groups is that trading was positive throughout December, following a 1.5% sales uplift in November,” he added.

Underlying annual like-for-like growth for the Tracker cohort, which represents both large and small groups, was running at 1.0% for the 12 months up to the end of the year, up from 0.7% at the end of November.

Total sales over the six week festive period, which include the effect of new openings since this time last year across the 49 companies in the seasonal Tracker cohort, were ahead 7.1% compared to same period in 2017.