The diversity of the company’s estate, coupled with investment in targeted capex and product promotions, allowed TCG to maximise seasonal sales opportunities ranging from corporate party bookings and drinks-led celebrations to post-shopping coffees and informal festive dining.
“Our festive performance reflected investment earlier in the year,” said the group’s chief operating officer Nigel Wright. “Corporate bookings, for example, were up thanks to an earlier, more structured drive to secure this business, while several of this year’s capex sites enjoyed massive, even record-breaking, sales over the holiday period.
“We saw significant divergence in the sales uplift, by type of pub, by week and by region - Christmas 2013 was very much a ‘moveable feast’, with the busiest sectors of the market changing as the extended festive season progressed.”
TCG’s food bookings peaked on what it refers to as ‘Food Friday’ – 13 December. The group also saw an upturn in walk-in food sales in the following week due to customers meeting friends and colleagues after a shopping trip or for an informal office party. In cities and town centres, trade rose sharply day-by-day in the run up to Christmas Day itself.
“After ‘Mad Friday’ there was a clear shift towards community local pubs, helped by both high profile sports led sessions and ‘family-and-friends’ occasions, with customers typically staying closer to home,” added Wright. “Among our community pubs, the Fatling in Hornchuch, Essex, which reopened in November after a £225,000 refurb, saw a site sales record of £56k during Christmas week.
“It wasn’t all about alcohol though, with the combination of last-minute shopping trips and an early start to sales prompting many shoppers to seek out a reviving hot drink – helped by our new seasonal hot drinks range including flavoured coffees, hot chocolate, mulled wines and cider.
“Overall, our diverse range of businesses offered the very best service levels and festive hospitality, tailored to their specific local markets, which should help to ensure that many people who visited our pubs and bars this Christmas will be back for more in 2014.”
Summarising 2013, Wright added that there was a definite upturn in consumer confidence. “Whether they were in our more aspirational London venues, in young bars, high street or community pubs, there were more people going out to celebrate than there have been for some years - provided they were getting value for money,” he said.