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Spirits boost drinks sales recovery while wine trails behind

Published:  18 August, 2021

Drinks sales have continued to edge further back towards pre-Covid levels in August, with spirits emerging as the leading category helping to catapult the on-trade towards recovery.

CGA’s latest Drinks Recovery Tracker shows that average drinks sales by value in the seven days to Saturday 7 August were just 11% down on the same week in 2019, marking the fourth week in a row in which the gap with pre-Covid levels has narrowed.

The previous three weeks also saw a narrowing of the gap in sales compared to 2019: the on-trade saw a 14% drop in the final week of July, a 19% shortfall in the previous seven days, and a 27% shortfall in the week prior.

Spirits were at the forefront of this trend. In the week to 7 August, spirits sales were 12% higher than 2019. Other categories still improved their sales, though they remained below 2019 levels. Soft drinks (-9%) had a better week than beer (-18%), wine (-15%) and cider (-24%).

CGA’s data also shows that Saturdays have been instrumental in achieving this growth. Sales were just 1% behind 2019 levels – another welcome indication that the return of late-night venues has triggered a resurgence of weekend drinking occasions.

“Strong Saturday trading and double-digit growth in spirits sales are two very encouraging signs that recovery in the on-trade is gathering momentum,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland.

“While some consumers remain cautious, and many venues are rightly taking a safety-first approach to reopening by extending Covid-19 restrictions, trading is now closer to pre-Covid-19 norms than at any point in the last 17 months.”

As consumers continue to regain confidence after the easing of restrictions, sales across the UK are slowly following suit.

Saturday 7 August saw Wales follow England in loosening most Covid-19 restrictions. The boost helped sales there to end the week down only 7% on the same week in 2019. Scotland’s sales were 28% down, but its own ‘freedom day’ last Monday 9 August will have offered a major lift to nightclubs, bars and pubs.

Decent weather and widespread staycations also helped trading across the week. Year-on-year sales were down by just 5% and 6% on Tuesday and Wednesday (3 and 4 August) across the UK, though falling temperatures contributed to drops of 23% and 15% on Thursday and Friday (5 and 6 August).

CGA’s Drinks Recovery Tracker monitors sales of the drinking-out market as the sector continues to recover. It compares category, supplier and brand rate of sale performance versus pre-Covid-19 sales.