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Festive trade rises, despite dips on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve Community pubs experienced a bumper few days over the festive period, but...

Festive trade rises, despite dips on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve

Community pubs experienced a bumper few days over the festive period, but Christmas Eve trade suffered because it fell on a Sunday this year. Meanwhile, the long-term decline in New Year's Eve trade continued.

Those are the findings of a survey of 1,100 tenanted and leased pubs by beer flow monitoring company Nucleus Data, conducted exclusively for the MA.

Trade between 22 December 2006 and 1 January 2007 was up 0.47% on last year, but down 5.1% on Christmas Eve and 5.6% on New Year's Eve, both Sundays.

Pubs experienced bumper business on certain days - trade was up a massive 82.6% on 22 December 2006 and 39.8% on 29 December 2006, both Fridays.

The results suggest that punters held back on the usual big nights after spending freely on previous nights.

The survey also suggests that customers are arriving at the pub later on New Year's Eve. Trade was down from 8pm to midnight, but increased between midnight and 2.30am.

Nathan Wall, operations director of JD Wetherspoon, said that the way Christmas dates fell would have made it a "record week for many".

However, the relative decline on New Year's Eve trading that seemed to start on Millennium Eve had continued, he added. "New Year's Eve just doesn't seem to be what it once was," he said.

Paul Kinsey, chief executive of nightclub company Nexum Leisure, agreed: "I think there has been a dripping away on New Year's Eve, which began on Millennium Eve.

"The ball is increasingly in the retailer's court to entice customers to spend. Some of our results on New Year's Eve were superb. More and more of our customers are prepared to go out and attend one of our venues as long as we're offering something worth paying for." Kinsey added that Christmas week had been superb and other weeks in December had been stronger than last year.

Bernard Brindley, spokesman for the Guild of Master Victuallers and licensee at the White Lion in Pailton, Warwickshire, agreed that trade on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve had been hit as both were on a Sunday.

He said pubs in his area have reported that trade was down by "roughly one-third" on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

He said Christmas Eve trade suffered at food-led pubs in particular because offices were closed.

National Association of Licensed House Managers president Dave Daly blamed the fall in New Year's Eve trade on customers wanting to finish off the cheap alcohol they bought from supermarkets over Christmas.

MP slamS supermarket booze

MP John Grogan has urged Health Minister Patricia Hewitt to investigate the effect of cheap supermarket booze on binge-drinking.

The chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group believes that a robust code covering off-trade promotions must be implemented sooner rather than later.

So far, 41 MPs have signed Grogan's Early Day Motion, which decries supermarkets for "exacerbating the problem of binge-drinking" and calling for an end to "irresponsible promotions". Now he wants senior politicians to take up the cause.

He believes that the off-trade must take a large portion of the blame for the reported rise in alcohol-related crime on New Year's Eve. "All the evidence would suggest that a large number of people drink a lot before they even arrive at pubs. Hopefully we can get the health minister to look into this issue. We need support from senior politicians. Not one politician has stood up against the supermarkets yet."

Grogan believes the four big players - Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons - are already sweating it out in fear of the current Competition Commission inquiry into supermarket buying power and pressure must be sustained. "A few years ago it was ingrained in British life that there would be a line of pubs and clubs enticing people in with promotions such as a £10 all-you-can drink offer. This is now very much on the fringe, but supermarkets have continued to ignore the issue of a robust code on promotions."

Meanwhile, the lobbying group Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems has voiced its support for an end to supermarket promotions. Its six-week study revealed that 77 people a day were being treated in hospital for alcohol-related assaults.

l Why not write to your local MP to sign Early Day Motion number 495 and support the campaign?

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