Sales dropped a staggering 72% over the festive season, held back by increasingly severe tier restrictions in England and further prohibitions for New Year, on top of often even more debilitating restrictions in place in Scotland and Wales.
Karl Chessell, director of CGA, which produces the Tracker with The Coffer Group and RSM, said the government restrictions dashed hopes that Christmas and New Year would help at least part of the market recoup a little of the income lost earlier in 2020.
Trading figures for the five weeks from 30 November to 3 January show drink-led managed pubs and bars were worst hit, with total sales down nearly 84% and more than 87% respectively on the same period last year.
Managed food-led pubs and pub restaurants fell by just over 78%, while group-owned restaurants saw total sales drop almost 58%.
Chessell said restaurants had a marginally less miserable time, benefiting from people out Christmas shopping at the start of December and, more importantly, from delivery business, which accounted for 23% of restaurant chain sales during the month.
London, which was largely open for business at the beginning of December, fared slightly better than the rest of the country with sales off almost 67% compared with almost 74% outside of the M25.
“The tier system had already kept pubs and restaurants across large parts of the country closed from the start of the month, but the escalation of measures saw the sector effectively grind to a total standstill by the end of December, even before January’s return to complete lockdown,” said Chessell.
At the beginning of the festive period Tracker figures show that just over half of the country’s managed pubs, bars and restaurants were trading again after November’s lockdown. The number was less than 10% at the end of December when underlying annual sales for the whole market were down around 50% on the previous 12 months.
David Coffer, chairman of The Coffer Group, said: “It doesn’t need a genius to work out why these dreadful trading figures have materialised. The big question is how do we come out of the spin? With most operators now unable to create any turnover whatsoever the accrual of debt has become critical.”
“The crucial date would be March 31 when the moratorium for insolvency was removed and many operators would face more than a year of unpaid property outgoings, which landlords would be able to aggressively pursue.
“Similarly, there are debts relating to rates, taxes, VAT, insurance and repayment of business loans. Altogether a tsunami of debt which needs to be dealt with from a standing start. How our sector, and indeed others, manage this predicament will be more than a challenge.”
Paul Newman head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added that businesses and their funders desperately needed greater visibility to support their cash-flow forecasting.
“It’s hard enough to predict when top line income will return without the ongoing uncertainty around costs,” he said. “Urgent clarity on substantial, additional Government support is needed now as the 3 March budget may simply be too late.”