Sales in pubs down almost half in July

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Trade slump: new data has found sales in pubs saw less of a decline than those in restaurants
Trade slump: new data has found sales in pubs saw less of a decline than those in restaurants

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Managed pub groups saw total sales down 44.7% in July 2020, compared to the same month last year, new figures have shown.

The Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which is produced by CGA, RSM and The Coffer Group, also found restaurant groups’ sales were down 59.8% and bars by 63.3%.

Trading in London was also down by 58.3% in July with outside the M25 seeing sales slump by 48.5%.

CGA director Karl Chessell said: “The figures are a reflection of the fact reopening sites has been gradual and not all by any means are back in business, plus those that are open are in general trading at well below normal levels.

“They also paint a mixed picture with pubs tending to open up more strongly than restaurants and London, which was hit earliest, still struggling to gain traction.”

The research, which includes 49 companies across hospitality, showed overall three quarters (76%) of the group-owned sites that were trading in February were open again by the end of July.

Some 94% of managed pubs had reopened but just 62% of bars and a third (36%) of group-operated restaurants were back trading.

Accelerating the trend

Chessell added: “Even before lockdown, the casual dining boom had stalled and a number of groups were closing sites and restructuring.

“The Covid-19 crisis looks to have accelerated that trend and it is unclear how many of those group-owned restaurants will eventually reopen, certainly under current ownership.”

Figures also showed delivery accounted for just over 13% of sales among casual dining groups in the tracker cohort in July – up from 7.4% in March and 5.9% in February.

Chessell said: “The growth in delivery has been a marked feature of lockdown and is likely to remain an important sales component for those food-led businesses that make it through.”

Coffer Corporate Leisure managing director Mark Sheehan said despite the excitement about the 4 July reopening date, trade is recovering slowly.

He added: “The restaurant sector, already under severe pressure post-Covid, has been decimated by the lockdown.

“The pub sector has provide to be more resilient as expected and is now bouncing back strongly in many areas.

“The August numbers will be helped by more people returning to work, Eat Out to Help Out and habits starting to return to usual so we will see a marked increase in certain areas. Central London however, still lags the rest of the country.”

Return of confidence

Business interruption support from the Government has been “critical” in helping the sector, according to RSM head of leisure and hospitality Paul Newman.

He said: “Nevertheless, July’s results lay bare the challenges that remain for operators. The return of consumer confidence is essential but this could take months.

“Key support including the rent moratorium and furlough scheme end in the autumn presenting a watershed moment for many.

“Urgent consideration should therefore be given to extending the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act.

“The end of the act brings the spectre of directors becoming personally liable for debts if they are found to be trading whilst insolvent from 1 October.

“An extension would give pub and restaurant businesses more time to restructure their finances as sales begin to recover. The current Eat Out to Help Out scheme has given the sector some breathing space but more help is needed if jobs are to be saved.”

Chessell added that total sales figures for July provide a picture of how far the sector still has to go to get back to pre-Covid levels of trading and highlights areas that remain under pressure.

He said: “Especially as working from home continues and footfall in city centres, in particular central London, remains well down.

“The drop in sales across the market actually began in February as Covid-19 started to hit the headlines and escalated in March so by the end of March, the managed pub, bar and restaurant sector had already fallen into year-on-year decline, down 2.7% on the previous 12 months.

“At the end of July, after three months of zero trade, it was down 32.4% year on year."

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