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An ever lengthening festive period bodes well for on-trade

Published:  17 December, 2019

A bumper Christmas could be on the on-trade horizon driven by the festive period now extending across three weeks compared to the ‘historic’ two, according to CGA.

Last year the on-trade saw impressive sales growth over the celebrations, helped in part by the mild weather and the fact that Christmas fell mid-week, giving consumers two weekends either side of Christmas Day to visit pubs and restaurants.

This boosted overall sales of food and drink through managed outlets by 7% on the previous year, with sales of food up 4.3%, and those of drink rising 4.7%, according to the CGA Christmas Report 2018.

And this year could bring even greater festive cheer to the on-trade, the research company has predicted,
as the festive season extends with consumers increasingly starting their celebrations earlier.

“Key days for going out over the festive period have always been the Friday – so-called ‘mad Friday’ – and Saturday before Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” said Rachel Weller, CGA strategic initiatives director. “However, on-trade sales data shows that the festive period is beginning to extend to three weeks of celebrations as consumers start going out from the second weekend of December onwards.”

The extended festive season was in part driven by an increasing number of people keen to avoid the traditionally “busy mad Friday”, she said.

In addition, adds Weller, the growing popularity of Christmas markets, which start in early November, had created a reason for consumers to visit their local towns and cities, creating a halo effect
for the on-trade.

Savvy operators were also proactively trying to drive footfall with month-long activations and offers.

“With Christmas Day and Boxing Day again falling mid-week this year, the on-trade is in a good place. It is, however, important to remember the importance of the weather and its impact on people being tempted out (or not),” said Weller.

“Mild and ice-free weather and the way Christmas falls are two of the biggest influencing factors on whether consumers choose to eat and drink out of home over the festive period, and this year will also depend on the sentiment following the general election.”

Some 66 million visits were made to the on-trade in the UK over Christmas 2018, with 43% of consumers spending more on drinking out than they normally do and 45% spending more on eating out.

CGA’s Christmas Report 2019 will be available mid-February 2020.