Booze sales surge as Covid restrictions ease

Out-of-home drinks sales enjoyed a welcome surge last week as omicron restrictions were eased across the country, according to CGA's latest Drinks Recovery Tracker. 

The study shows that average drinks sales in Britain's managed pubs, bars and restaurants in the week to Saturday 29 January were 8% below the equivalent period in 2020. This marked the first time that the weekly comparison had dropped into single digits since November. 

The week included three full days of trading without Plan B restrictions in England, with sales last Thursday and Saturday (27 and 29 January) just 4% and 6% behind 2020 levels. In Scotland and Wales, where restrictions have been slower to ease, weekly sales were 17% and 20% behind – though both numbers represent week-on-week improvements. 

Continuing a pattern established since the end of Britain's first lockdown, spirits have performed well ahead of other drinks categories. Spirits sales were 3% up on the same week in 2020 thanks to the ongoing popularity of cocktails, while beer (-12%), cider (-13%), wine (-14%) and soft drinks (-10%) lagged – though all four of these categories were ahead of the previous seven days.

"These figures leave us cautiously optimistic that pubs, bars and restaurants can build their sales over the coming weeks," says Jonathan Jones, managing director of CGA UK and Ireland. "Consumer confidence about going out is gradually recovering, and the end to work-from-home instructions and restrictions on clubs will boost night-time visits in particular.

"Covid-19 challenges are far from over, sales are still well behind 2020 levels, and many people face a squeeze on disposable income. But after an immensely challenging December and January we can hopefully look forward to something of a recovery over February and beyond."

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