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Kantar: UK retail sales of alcohol falls and signs of optimism for restaurants

UK retail sales of alcohol fell over the last month, the latest data from Kantar showed, but there were signs of optimism for the on-trade. 

Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight Fraser McKevitt noted that take-home sales of alcohol over the four weeks to mid-July were down by 3% compared with the previous month. However shoppers still spent around £1.2 billion on alcohol over the past month – a 24% increase on 2019.

“It was a huge month for British football, with major tournaments usually providing a significant boost to supermarkets. But with many fans choosing to make the most of newfound freedoms and watch the matches in pubs and bars, take-home sales of alcohol over the four weeks to mid-July were actually down by 3% compared with the previous month,” he said.

On trade recovery

Meanwhile, there was some optimism for the on-trade in June, as overall sales in the UK’s managed pub, restaurant and bar groups saw sales drop just 1% in June compared to the same month in 2019, despite being down 27% on a rolling 12 month basis, the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker showed.

Consumer demand was particularly strong in restaurants, the figures revealed, where total sales were up by 3% in June. However the outlook for pubs and bars was patchier, with pubs recording a 2% drop in sales in June due to the mixed weather and Covid-19 restrictions which the CGA said “dampened” any benefit from the early stages of the Euro 2020 football tournament. Sales in bars fell by 11% in bars, as footfall was impacted by social distancing and early closing requirements, however this was still a “significant improvement” on May, when total sales were down by 26% ocompared to May 2019.

It should be noted that the data from the latest Tracker did not cover the period for the finals, semis or quarter-finals, which were held in July.

Sales outside London fared better than in the capital – with sales outside the M25 rising 4% in June, but falling by 11% inside the M25.

Research for the CGA and AlixPartners Market Recovery Monitor shows that the UK has around 9,000 fewer licensed premises than it did a year ago, and the sales from managed groups in the 12 months to June 2021 were down 27% on the previous 12 months.

Karl Chessell, director of hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA, warned that despite the enduring appeal of restaurants, pubs and bars, and the resilience of the businesses behind them, “Hospitality remains fragile”.

“It will need sustained support and concessions from government in the months ahead if it is to help drive the UK’s economic recovery,” he said.

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added that the combination of Brexit, Covid restrictions and test and trace was continuing to have a huge impact on staffing availability, warning that this squeeze in the labour market was likely to dampen sales over the coming months. “The finances of many operators remain on a knife-edge and the Government needs to consider a relaxation of visa barriers for hospitality workers to support the sector’s recovery,” he said.

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