Analysts had expected businesses to perform just as well as December 2009, when like for like sales rose by 3 per cent.
Now however, with the promise of more snow on the horizon, restaurants, pubs and hotels may not have the best festive trading period they’d hoped for.
“If we get a lot of snow everywhere and traffic can’t move, particularly in the week before Christmas, then it could be disastrous,” said Peter Backman of market analyst Horizons. “But it all depends on where it hits and by how much. Right now there are too many unknowns, but whatever happens the snow will slow down business this month no matter what."
Operator confidence hit
According to Peter Martin, chief executive of Coffer Peach, December sales account for around 8 per cent of total annual sales in the pub and eating out sectors, but this figure is set to plummet as snow begins to hit the west of the UK this week, hampering consumers’ efforts to attend Christmas parties and social occasions.
“Up to this point the industry has been optimistic about the run up to January when the new VAT rate comes in,” added Martin. “There was a lot of confidence, weather permitting, but now the dampeners are on. It’s unfortunate but the biggest upset on this market is the weather.”
Last winter the brunt of the bad weather appeared in January – a traditionally slow month for the industry – contributing to a 5 per cent decline in restaurant and pub sales and making it the worst performing month of the year.
However analysts believe many people will remain determined to enjoy the festive season and make more of an effort than usual to celebrate at pubs, restaurants and hotels.
In the meantime, businesses are being warned to prepare contingency plans in advance of bad weather, to ensure staff, supplies and customers can still reach them during one of the most lucrative periods of the year.