It seems that those pubs ‘over-performing’ in the market came out best with Dublin city centre having have had a better Christmas than the previous year.
“It was an encouraging Christmas in Dublin city centre and the trade in general in Dublin performed well,” commented LVA Chief Executive Dónall O’Keeffe, “The Dublin trade finished ’14 on a positive note so it was a good Christmas.”
He reckoned that the market was up a couple of per cent “… but well-run pubs in good locations did particularly well and would be well up on last year,” he believed.
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben agreed.
“All the evidence points to a good Christmas trading period with different patterns in different areas,” he told Drinks Industry Ireland, “Staff Christmas parties were stronger this year than over previous years, with obvious benefits. There was also a big number of people home from far-flung places and that benefited the trade considerably.
“The more urban areas had a good early December with the parties and it didn’t hit the more rural areas until Christmas week but between there and New Year it was generally strong,” he said.
This may have been driven by a slightly better corporate sentiment which led to a “reasonable loosening of the purse strings by companies in relation to Christmas parties.
“Another regrettable fact of life: there were a fair amount of emigrants returning home for Christmas and the obvious place for them to go was to the pub. We saw this happen two years ago, so maybe it’s a two-yearly thing.”
Like last year, there was a “bit of recovery” in terms of beer sales in the on-trade over Christmas.
Kerry trade good on traditional good nights over Christmas
Local newspaper reports from Kerry suggest that pubs’ and restaurants’ Christmas takings there reflected a growth in consumer confidence.
Pubs seemed to remain doing good business beyond the traditional New Year’s Eve period into the Friday and Saturday night, bringing many above the 2013/14 income levels for the period.
“Business was good on the traditionally good nights such as New Year’s Eve, St Stephen’s Day and on the day work broke up for Christmas,” explained the VFI’s County Kerry Chairman Gerard Counihan, “The busy nights were very busy with business steady on the other nights,” he added, “Overall, Christmas was spread out for us and it was a good Christmas.”
Extended Christmas weekend helped Cork trade
While the VFI’s County Cork PRO Con Dennehy agreed that the extended Christmas weekend probably helped, he also pointed out that salaried people won’t be paid again until the end of January and there will be bills to pay, so the next few months will be critical.
He believed that the strength of the Christmas trade in County Cork depended on where you were.
“The city centre pubs did OK,” he said, “But the suburbs didn’t do as well as they might have.”
He himself has a new pub in Blackrock Road.
“Christmas was solid enough there but not ‘spectacular’,” he explained, “But in the city centre, the ‘destination venue’ was the winner.”
“Mixed emotions” for Galway’s Christmas trade
The VFI’s County Galway Vice Chairman Dessie O’Brien described the Christmas period there as one of “mixed emotions”.
“New Year’s Eve was well down everywhere due to home drinking,” he told Drinks Industry Ireland, “Overall it was no ‘major shakes.”
He’d talked with a number of company representatives from a number of distributors and their opinion had been that trade was worse this year than last.
Others said that trade was a bit ‘softer’ with less disposable income on offer.
“Established pubs are closing up day and night and not because of licence problems,” he pointed out, “There was one there for 70 years which closed its doors on New Year’s Eve.”
As the owner of a rural pub near Loughrea Dessie could confirm that the pub business in Loughrea itself had been well down over the last two years.
“They may have had a good Christmas but what’s January and February going to be like?” he wondered, echoing Con Dennehy’s sentiments.
Steady Christmas trade in Limerick
On the other hand, Limerick VFI NEC member Martin O’Dea had found Christmas trade very steady, “.. quite good in most areas depending on location.
“I’m six miles from the city myself and pubs in our area would have experienced quite a good Christmas with people staying a bit more local.”
City centre trade was also boosted by the rugby match at Thomond Park on St Stephen’s Day, he said, adding that overall, Christmas was probably on par with last year.
“I thought it was quite good. But since everyone went back to work on 2nd January, the whole thing has fallen back again. Next week will probably tell us a lot.”
Donegal’s “patchy” Christmas trade
In County Donegal, on-trade business proved “patchy” with different pubs giving different stories of sales over the period.
“Only for emigrants coming home it would have been slack enough,” said the VFI’s County Donegal Chairman Gerry Gallagher, “Business may be thriving again down the country but we’re just not getting it up here. Hopefully the Summertime will see business thriving here – especially with the Wild Atlantic Way.”