The freezing January weather pushed like-for-like sales in Britain's pubs and restaurants down by 5% compared to the same month last year, as people stayed away, according to a new industry survey.
"With so many city centres feeling more like ghost towns it is perhaps surprising that the figures weren't worse," said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, which produces the Coffer Peach Business Tracker along with UBS and KPMG.
Total sales were down 3.2% on January 2009.
In contrast to the bad January weather, trading over December was strong, with like-for-like sales up 2.9% on December 2008. The figures also follow nine consecutive months of like-for-like sales growth for the 15 companies making up the Business Tracker group, which includes Mitchells & Butlers, Whitbread, Tragus and Pizza Hut.
January sales were 35% below those in December, made worse by the fact that December was a five-week month.
David Coffer, chairman of the Coffer Group, said: "The extreme weather conditions changed consumer patterns and downgraded turnover across the board in January, a month traditionally lacklustre in the trading calendar. The real effect of the discounting deals that the industry has seen in the last 18 months will surely come to surface soon and it will be interesting to see the impact it will have on the bottom line. The test of recovery will be in the next quarter's results."
Meanwhile Richard Hathaway, head of travel, leisure and tourism at KPMG commented: "This year's freak winter weather made January trading for the pub and restaurant sector even tougher than usual. This is the first negative month of like-for-like sales since last spring and the largest decrease in month-on month sales since the Tracker was launched. The dramatic impact the weather had on reduced footfall has been reflected across other sectors - KPMG's Retail Sales Monitor saw the worst January sales growth in 15 years.
"However, January 2010 aside, considering the severity of the downturn over the past 12 months the leading pub and restaurant groups have proven to be very resilient in the circumstances. Even in the weaker months, trading hasn't been as bad as could have been expected."
By Neil Gerrard
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