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Spirits sales slip in British on-trade

Sales of spirits fell by 8% in Britain’s on-trade in the week to 2 December 2023, the biggest decline across all drinks categories.

Spirits sales dropped by 8% in Britain’s managed bars and pubs in the week ending 2 December

CGA by NIQ’s Daily Drinks Tracker provides analysis of sales at managed licensed premises across Britain on a weekly basis.

Between Sunday 26 November and Saturday 2 December 2023, spirits faced the greatest drop in sales. It was followed by soft drinks (down by 4%), cider (down by 2.8%) and beer (down by 0.3%). Wine, on the other hand, rose by 1%.

For the seven days to 2 December 2023, total drinks sales in on-trade venues were 2% behind the equivalent week in 2022.

CGA said year-on-year growth has now been below 1% in six of the last seven weeks, broken only by strong trading around Halloween (31 October) and Bonfire Night (5 November).

The recent sales drop was attributed to the high comparison in the same week in 2022, when bars and pubs were boosted by the England and Wales World Cup football game on 29 November 2022.

There was growth for four of the seven days of the week with the highest on Sunday (26 November 2023) when sales were up by 11%. Saturday (2 December 2023) trading was up by 2%, continuing the recent pattern of solid weekend sales, CGA noted.

“It’s frustrating that drinks sales continue to hover just below last year’s levels, but the World Cup makes meaningful comparisons hard,” said Jonathan Jones, CGA by NIQ managing director, UK and Ireland.

“Consumers remain eager to enjoy drinking in pubs and bars, but the lingering cost-of-living crisis and Aslef member rail strikes are two significant threats to festive footfall.

“Having said that, 29% of operator business leaders are seeing Christmas bookings ahead of last year, with only 15% saying reservations are down. So, there are also reasons to be positive about the festive trading period, which can make or break the year for many restaurants, pubs and bars.”

A recent survey estimated that £7.4 billion (US$9.3bn) will be splurged on Christmas parties this year.

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