“We’re noticing a marked decline in UK visitors and there’s a second impact that people are not talking about in regard to the Brexit situation,” he told Drinks Industry Ireland, “UK tourists are down 6% but equally there are a lot of anecdotal reports of a more controlled spend as changing money at 92 pence to the €uro is a more challenging proposition than when it was 78 pence two years ago.
“Having said that, total tourism is up and the US tourism is strong, which is good for the trade.”
Business is otherwise very stable and solid and there are as yet no pressing concerns other than Brexit and domestic business challenges.
Local urban and suburban pubs are enjoying a good 2017 from local customers and business here has been pretty solid, he said.
“The biggest issue coming back to us is the lack of UK visitors, “ commented VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “They are more accustomed to a pub scene than their European or North American counterparts and that spend is missed. We’re seeing the effects of Brexit already. The trade in the past two months would be described as steady rather than spectacular. It would also appear that more Irish are taking holidays abroad this year which will have impacted.
“Another significant issue in August is the trend towards earlier dates for back-to-school. As a result the last week of August is being lost to the domestic tourist trade. This is something we would like to see reversed.”
Elsewhere, John Dillon, Managing Director at Dalcassian Wines & Spirits, had seen a lift in sales this Summer in both the on- and off-trade compared with the same period last year.
“This is largely down to the continued trend towards premium spirits, especially premium gin,” he told Drinks Industry Ireland, “The feedback we’re getting from the trade is that wine and beer sales are flat, even dropping somewhat. Brexit seems to be having an impact which was only coming through in the middle of the Summer. At the beginning UK visitors had their travel plans in place and were still making the trip; as the Summer progressed a lot of people who would have normally travelled from the UK changed their plans.”
In breaking down the market by category, he explained that, “Prosecco is still popular and holding its own. Premium spirits and cocktails are now very much leading the charge – the move to premium goes hand-in-hand with the move to authenticity and brand provenance. Consumers are choosing drinks that have a true brand story, real and exciting.
“The lift in premium gin specifically is significant – in some cases the trade reports that gin is matching vodka sales.
The new wave of contemporary bars and mixology is also boosting sales.
“The feedback we’re getting from the on-trade is that overall sales are steady, no major swing either way compared to this time last year,” he concluded.
Molson Coors found July and August sales “soft” in the on-premise overall.
“Generally city centre and urban pubs performed well and it was clear that the influence of tourism, big nights out and food all contributed to a solid performance,” Molson Coors’ Country Manager Keith Fagan told Drinks Industry Ireland, “However generally speaking our more traditional and rural pubs continue to find business a real challenge.
“Nielsen data to July 2017 is suggesting six-month beer sales are in decline as we lap the €uro’s comparative from last year with a slight improvement in July.”