A tough festive season for pubs

Rural outlets in particular struggled in difficult year

Empty pub

SCOTLAND’S pubs and bars endured a tough festive season in December, with more than half of businesses recording lower revenues than 2016, according to the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).

In the latest SLTA Market Insight Report, published today, 53% of respondents stated they saw a decline in their business over the 2017 festive season compared to Christmas 2016.

Of these, 38% had seen revenues decline by up to 10%, with 15% saying their Christmas business had fallen by over 10%.

Rural outlets were the hardest hit, with none of the rural outlets surveyed having grown their revenues over Christmas compared to the previous year.

Just over a quarter of rural outlets – 27% – said their business performed the same over Christmas 2017.

However, 53% of rural operators said revenues had declined by up to 10%, with 20% recording a dip of more than 10%.

The poor festive season came at the end of a disappointing year overall, in which 42% of operators reported a year-on-year decline, compared to 39% who had grown their business. Just under a fifth of respondents, 19%, said their business had stayed the same in 2017, compared to 2016.

Of those that had increased revenues in 2017, 10% had grown their business by more than 10% and 29% had seen revenues grow by up to 10%.

A sizeable share of operators – 19% – said their business had stayed the same in the course of 2017, with 28% saying revenues had declined by up to 10% and 14% saying business had declined by more than 10%.

Business rates was said to be the single biggest worry for the Scottish trade in 2018, with wider government legislation also a cause for concern.

Competition from the off-trade was considered to be a concern for fewer operators than in previous years, with 23% of respondents citing it as a challenge to their business, down from 47% in January 2017 and 41% in January 2016. The forthcoming introduction of minimum pricing in May was thought to be the reason for the shift.

SLTA chief executive, Paul Waterson, said the festive performance of rural pubs was a particular concern.

“Worryingly, zero rural operators reported growth over the Christmas/New Year period,” he said.

“This is extremely concerning given the importance of tourism to Scotland’s economy.”

The report was compiled by surveying more than 600 operators across Scotland.