Overall March sales show a decline of 1.8% compared to 2022, albeit with a 6.4% uplift in London despite rail strike disruption.

Rising prices continue to deter consumer spending, meaning like-for-like growth has slowed even more from 1.6% in February to -1.8% this month. March marks another consecutive month where this pattern is emerging, being the first this year to show negative year-on-year figures. December 2022 revealed an increase of 17% in like-for-like numbers, and January 2023 sat at a 4.1% growth compared to 2022.

London drink sales were up 8.9%, leading the capital’s 6.4% overall growth, but these figures sit against low 2022 statistics and higher prices, which indicates that volumes are down. Research also shows that there is a slight increase in the proportion of sites trading 7 days a week in 2023, compared to 2022, so there is an expectation that the numbers would be higher than they are.

Richard Hartley, Chief Growth Officer at S4labour, said: “The impact of inflation is paving the way for a challenging period, especially with labour increases coming into play next month.” From April, operators will have the task of maintaining their current margins by increasing takings, which will be no easy feat considering how much consumers’ disposable income is being squeezed.

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