On-trade spirits sales struggle over Christmas

Spirits sales lagged behind all other drinks categories in Britain’s on-trade during the final two weeks of December.

Data from CGA by NIQ’s Daily Drinks Tracker showed that spirits sales in Britain’s managed licensed venues posted a 3% increase in the week to Saturday 23 December 2023.

However, it was a smaller rise compared with other drinks categories. Beer and cider both climbed by 12%, wine increased by 8%, and soft drinks grew by 4%.

The spirits category was the only segment to decline in the following week (24-30 December), with an 11% drop. In contrast, beer led growth with a 13% increase, followed by cider (up by 12%), wine (up by 7%) and soft drinks (up by 5%).

Total drinks sales in the on-trade grew by 7% in the final fortnight of the year, compared with the same period in 2022.

The penultimate week of the year (17-23 December) saw on-trade drinks sales rise by 9%, followed by 6% growth in the seven days to Saturday 30 September.

Drinks sales on Christmas Eve were 3% ahead of 2022 while Christmas Day posted a 10% increase. Boxing Day, however, achieved just 0.1% growth. Drinks sales on ‘Mad Friday’ (22 December) soared by 21%.

“After a soft November and early December, it was great to see such a strong end to 2023 for many operators and suppliers,” said Jonathan Jones, CGA by NIQ’s managing director, UK and Ireland.

“Despite ongoing pressure on their spending, consumers were clearly eager to celebrate Christmas with friends and families in the special environments that pubs and bars provide.

“While trading conditions remain challenging, we can be cautiously optimistic that these positive trends will continue into early 2024, despite the pressures of reduced spending and Dry January.”

Spirits sales in Britain’s on-trade also dropped at the start of December, with an 8% decrease in the week to 2 December 2023.

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Author: Nicola Carruthers