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UK hospitality sales drop 21.3% in Q1

The UK hospitality sector saw sales fall by 21.3% during the first quarter of 2020 due to the nation’s coronavirus lockdown, according to new data.

Bars, pubs and restaurants across the UK were ordered to close on 20 March

The new UK Hospitality Quarterly Tracker is the most comprehensive analysis of the nation’s hospitality sector, trade body UK Hospitality said. It was compiled by data provider CGA.

It combines data from all sub-segments of hospitality including bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels and attractions across the UK. The analysis showed that the drop in trading was concentrated in March, with total annual sales across the sector down 2.7% to £126.8 billion (US$158.2bn), compared to the previous 12 months.

The total value of the sector to the UK economy at the end of 2019 was £133.5bn (US$166.4bn). UK Hospitality warned “it will be a long time before that level is reached again”.

On the evening of 20 March, all UK on-trade venues were ordered to close until further notice due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Three days later, the UK government ordered all but essential businesses and premises to close in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality, said: “The scale of the fall underlines the severe impact the Covid-19 crisis and the lockdown imposed by the government from March 23 has already had on the sector.

“At the end of December, the industry had seen year-on-year growth running at +3.9% – the turnaround has been dramatic and will only get worse in the coming quarter.

“A continuation of business support is the only way to avoid a bloodbath of job losses and company failures in the hospitality sector, one of the UK economy’s jewels in the crown.”

UK Hospitality is urging the government to follow a six-point plan to help businesses reopen following the coronavirus pandemic, or risk the loss of one million jobs.

A recent survey by the trade body found fewer than 1% of UK hospitality businesses have received payouts for business interruption insurance, while only a quarter of eligible companies have received grants.

This was followed by the UK government’s new fast-track Bounce Back Loan scheme, which allowed smaller businesses to access 100% government-backed loans of up to £50,000 (US$62,000) in a matter of days.

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