Restaurant and pub sales plummet in December

By Becky Paskin

- Last updated on GMT

Was diners' determination to enjoy the Christmas break too little, too late?
Was diners' determination to enjoy the Christmas break too little, too late?
Pub and restaurant operators have seen sales plummet in December compared to last year, after the heavy snow encouraged consumers to stay indoors at home.

Figures from Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which monitors sales performance at 17 major pub and restaurant operators, including Mitchells & Butlers, Gondola and Tragus, showed that like-for-like sales dropped 4.2 per cent in December, compared to the same period in 2009.

The result could have been even worse, if it weren’t for buoyant trading in the final two weeks, which were in fact busier than the previous year.

Peach Factory’s Peter Martin said the turnaround was down to consumers’ determination to enjoy the Christmas period and make it out of their homes.

“However, operators were still unable to make up for the snow-induced sales losses earlier,” he added.

“The first three weeks of the five-week month had seen negative sales figures across the market, with the first week seeing a double-digit dip.

”Heavy snow in the busiest weeks of the year is bad news and way more significant than for the weeks lost to snow in January 2010, which experienced a 5 per cent sale drop as January is always a quiet month.”

End of a run

Total sales for the month were down 3.4 per cent, ending six consecutive months of positive same-store sales.

Trevor Watson, a director at property agent Davis Coffer Lyons, part of the Coffer Group, said: “The results have been affected by some operators bringing in price increases early in order to counter the effect of the hike in VAT in January, as well as major snow disruption over an unprecedented period in the key trading weeks of the year. Coffer Group, however, is currently experiencing the highest levels of agency demand for two years.”

Analysts noted that the strongest brands and best operators led the market, although listed pub companies had outperformed other groups in the index.

They added that further pressures from the VAT rise and continuing weak confidence would eventually “drive further differentiation in performance between the winners and the losers”.

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