BWS growth eased-off as pub reboot approached, Nielsen data shows

Off-trade alcohol sales continued to experience strong growth in the week leading up to the reopening of the on-trade.

But Nielsen data for the week to July 4 – the day of many pubs in England reopened their doors for the first time in almost four months – showed a slowing in off-trade growth as the prospect of socialising away from the home got closer for many people.

Total off-trade sales for the week to July 4 were 26% ahead of the corresponding week in 2019, but this was well down from +53% two weeks earlier when sales were also boosted by the arrival of a heatwave for much of the UK.

Beer (+33%) and spirits (+31%) were the biggest beneficiaries of the switch to off-trade booze buying in the first week of July.

But there was a massive falling away in cider growth, down to +15% from +45% the week before, after reaching a high of +93% in the last week of May.

Wine was up 23% in the week to July 4, while sparkling wine rose 10% and Champagne by 6%.

For the whole of the lockdown and eased-lockdown period, from the week to March 21 onwards, off-trade BWS are now 34% ahead of the same period in 2019, with both beer and cider sales up 50%.

Spirits are ahead by 30% and wine by 28%.

Sparkling wine sales are 13% up on last year but Champagne hasn’t fully recovered from a slump in sales early on and is down 12% for the full lockdown period.

Gemma Cooper, Nielsen’s senior commercial business partner, said: “We were expecting to see a slowdown as some shoppers prepared to venture out to the on-trade.

“It has been 16 weeks since lockdown began and in those 16 weeks Brits spent an additional £1.9 billion across the off-trade.

“In volume terms that is an additional 397 million litres, enough liquid to fill 159 Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

Though trailing cider growth in percentage terms, Cooper said wine was second to beer in adding the most sterling value to the off-trade, with an extra £488 million spent.

“White was the top tipple for those shoppers in search of wine,” she said, “with an additional £218 million spent.

“Shoppers have been looking to scratch-cooking and at-home meal solutions during lockdown, with beer and wine well-placed accompaniments to this trend.”