Early Easter & celebrations lift March sales growth

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

(image: Getty/borchee)
(image: Getty/borchee)

Related tags Events Finance Multi-site pub operators

Hospitality groups saw above inflation like-for-like sales growth of 5.2% last month (March), new data has shown.

The latest CGA RSM Hospitality Business Tracker revealed many operators will have enjoyed the trading boost as a result of events such as Mother’s Day and St Patrick’s Day.

The growth metrics seen in the tracker were also aided by the early Easter bank holiday revenues falling into March while this year while Easter trading fell into April in 2023.

Moreover, the tracker, showed celebrations had a particularly strong impact on the managed pub sector, which saw like-for-like sales growth of 7.2%. For restaurants, it was softer at 3.4% while the on-the-go segment saw a 5.2% decline.

Elsewhere in hospitality, bars recorded a marginal decline (0.5%) in March but this was an improvement from the 13.6% and 7.4% drops in January and February respectively, highlighting the impact of the early bank holiday weekend celebrations and holidays had on the overall sector this month.

The tracker also showed for the first month since November, restaurant, pub and bar groups achieved higher growth outside of London than within it as March sales inside the M25 were 4% ahead of last year but ahead by 5.7% beyond the motorway.

Encouraging figures

CGA by NIQ director Karl Chessell said: “These figures are encouraging for hospitality after a slow start to 2024 and show people remain eager to celebrate holidays and special occasions in restaurants, pubs and bars.

“While spending remains tight for many consumers, we can be cautiously optimistic their confidence will continue to increase in 2024 in line with an easing of inflation.

“Operators still face severe headwinds and it may be some time before they generate sustained real-terms growth but March showed the sector is moving in the right direction.”

An early Easter break and the arrival of spring weather gave rise to inflation-beating sales growth in March, with pubs the main beneficiaries as friends and family opted to celebrate in their local establishments, according to RSM UK.

Head of leisure and hospitality Saxon Moseley said: “After two months of sluggish growth to start the year, operators will be hoping these results represent the green shoots of consumer confidence to the market as inflation slows and energy prices fall.

“The sector has seen several high-profile closures in recent months, with more challenges to follow including minimum wage and rates increases in April and changes to tipping legislation in July.

“All will be hoping this sales momentum can continue into the summer months to give businesses some much-needed breathing space and help balance the books.”

Sales growth

Fellow insight firm Oxford Partnership also revealed data that showed Easter drove some cheer for the hospitality industry, finishing the first quarter of 2024 on a positive note.

It found volumes were up 2.4% in the four week period ending 31 March, compared to the same period last year as an early Easter was celebrated alongside the Six Nations and a plethora of football fixtures. Over the Easter break, suburban outlets saw sales growth up 7.2% in the 14th​ week.

In other positive news, outlet closures slowed in the four weeks to 0.1% compared to 2.4% in the month before (February) while consumer footfall also showed growth (1.7%) in the year to date and there has been a 3% growth over the latter part of the week in pubs and bars. Consumer dwell time continued to rise by 4.9%, driven by the pub and bar segment (6%).

When it came to drinks categories, draught beer and cider volumes grew by 0.7% and the year to date, was up 2.3% while stout sales were also up at 9.6% in the year to date as well as worldf lager (up 7.3%).

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