The final fortnight of the six weeks to 3 January made up for a slow start with a 4.5% rise in like-for-like sales in both weeks compared to last year.
Wet-led operators saw their like-for-like sales rise 3.1% over the period with restaurant group enjoying a smaller uplift, with the best trading outside of London.
“The run-up was slow, and even negative in the last week of November, but built up into a crescendo in the two weeks when many people were off work” said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, RSM (formerly Baker Tilly) and UBS.
He added: “Although the overall 1.8% increase over the entire period was less than the 2.8% increase seen last year on 2013, it is still a generally good performance, as the market as a whole has slowed since last year. Competition is increasing across the board.”
Among the 30 companies that make up the Tracker cohort, total sales for the festive period, which include the impact of new openings, were ahead 5.2% nationally on last year.
The underlying long-term trend shows that like-for-like sales for the whole 12 months of 2015, up to the end of December, were ahead 1.5% on 2014.
Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said, “Restaurant and pub groups reported another bumper festive period with very strong growth even against good LFL’s in 2014. However, looking ahead we do predict a tougher 2016 with a marked downturn in consumer confidence and strong competition in the sector from the many expanding restaurant, bar and pub groups. Notwithstanding, overall we continue to expect growth ahead of inflation in most parts of the country and the various sub sectors.”
Adam Spencer, associate director at RSM UK, said: “The wettest December in over a century failed to dampen desire of the UK public to eat and drink out. Headline growth continues to remain strongest outside of the M25, where rents are significantly lower and more accommodating councils have recognised the wider benefits that a varied food and drink destination can bring to a community. Our chief concern is that continued wet weather, the proliferation of ‘dry January’ and stock market turbulence will impact the current month and negate any gains made over the festive period.”
Jarrod Castle, leisure analyst at UBS Investment Research, observed: “The year ended positively, with the 12-month moving average growth rate coming in at 1.7%. While overall London outperformed the regions, trading in chain restaurants was toughest in London. While the end to the year should reassure, the start to the new year remains uncertain.”