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Business leaders networking at the Peach 20/20 Conference  

31 Jan 2024

Independents feel brunt of continuing site closures

The number of licensed premises in Britain fell by a net 803 sites in the fourth quarter of 2023, the latest Hospitality Market Monitor from CGA by NIQ and AlixPartners reveals. It also highlights the widening gap between the fortunes of managed groups and independent operators.

The figure is equivalent to 0.8% of the total, and represents an acceleration of closures from the third quarter of last year, when numbers fell by 0.3% - but still much healthier than the average closures in mid-2022, when post-COVID business failures were at a peak.   The latest edition of the Monitor has a special focus on the pub sector, where the number of premises has dropped by 43.6% over the last 20 years. It shows that food-led pubs have been relatively resilient, with a 7.6% drop since March 2020, while community and high street pubs have dipped by 11.8% and 11.2% respectively. 

Managed pub groups, however, have emerged in a stronger position,  achieving growth of 4.2% in that time, while independents (down 14.1%) and leased operators (down 14.4%) have found it harder to recover from COVID lockdowns. 

The Monitor shows Britain had 99,113 licensed premises at December 2023—nearly 3,000 fewer than 12 months earlier, and 16,000 fewer than at March 2020. The whole independent sector, including bars, restaurants, hotels, clubs and other licensed venues, as well as pubs, has been hit particularly hard, with numbers falling by a sixth (16.6%) since early 2020.   Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s business unit director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Given all the pressures on hospitality in recent months, it is no surprise to see more contraction in site numbers in late 2023. More closures can be expected in the coming months as inflation and labour issues continue to put strain on businesses, and independent operators are particularly vulnerable. However, CGA’s data points to solid trading for managed pubs, bars and restaurants, and likely drops in inflation and interest rates will hopefully ease costs and loosen people’s spending as 2024 goes on. Whether or not this leads to a slowing of closures and a trigger for new openings remains to be seen.”

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