The data also showed trade to be down 60% on Christmas Day and 31% on Boxing Day, capping off a devastating December in what is traditionally a bumper sales period for the sector.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “December is a vital period for hospitality businesses, equal to three months’ worth of trading for many. These new figures are crippling for an industry already struggling but also spell disaster for the wider UK economic recovery, as ONS figures showed that overall growth in Q3 was driven by hospitality”.
Based on a separate industry survey, the broader hospitality sector will have seen a 40% drop in sales overall in December versus the same period in 2019, the last ‘normal’ Christmas before the pandemic. The figures represent a £3bn hit to the industry compared to 2019.
Venues in Scotland and Wales were hit even worse in the week before New Year due to stringent restrictions. The Welsh sector performed twice as badly as England, and in Scotland 2.5 times worse.
Nicholls said: “These sales drops versus 2019, and also against our members’ projections before the onset of the new Omicron variant, will have taken most businesses from healthy trading for the month to painful losses, delaying the sector’s recovery and extending hospitality’s long Covid”.
In the weeks prior to the new Omicron variant emerging, average sales had been recovering through autumn and were close to pre-pandemic levels (98%). However, a damaging festive period meant cash reserves were now severely depleted. Looking forward, Nicholls predicts businesses will struggle to survive the first quarter of 2022.
She said: “This dreadfully disappointing December has further stymied our ability to deliver jobs, growth and investment at pace, which we all know is so crucial to the recovery of our economy overall”.
Companies operating pub or restaurant chains fared slightly better than independents, and saw sales fall a third in the week leading up to Christmas, and by around a fifth in the week before New Year, according to data from the CGA Managed Volume Pool.