Nielsen client delivery team leader Rob Hallworth looks at the prospects for the off-trade as sporting fixtures return.

If you cast your mind back to July 2018, the sun was shining, the World Cup was in full flow and England made it to their first semi-final for 28 years, all of which contributed to a significant rise in beer sales.

In the four weeks to July 14, 2018, off-trade beer sales increased by more than £90 million, which before Covid-19 reared its ugly head was the biggest four-week period of sales we had seen over the past 10 years.

Beer and football is a winning combination. The off-trade was key in driving overall beer sales in 2018, taking a 53.8% volume share of sales in those four weeks.

The following year the share was 51.1%, showing the impact key events can have. A Nielsen survey highlighted that, of the shoppers who planned to watch the football, 91% of them planned to do so at home and households with larger families saw the biggest uplift in beer spend. With England, Scotland and Wales all involved in this year’s tournament – delayed from last year – there will be plenty of games to keep British consumers interested.

During the 2018 World Cup, it wasn’t just the case that beer sales increased, there were some pretty interesting pack size dynamics occurring too. Mid-size and large packs performed well at the start of the tournament; the prospect of a lot of games in quick succession meant shoppers were looking to stock up ahead of the group stages. As the tournament progressed, smaller packs gained momentum as the occasion moved game by game. This represents a particularly big opportunity for convenience retailers. Covid-19 has meant beer has been bought more frequently in the off-trade, with shoppers often using their local stores to fulfil this need.

It’s worth being well stocked on the smaller formats as the tournament goes on, especially if one of the home nations is still involved. Of course, the landscape has changed over the past year. There is huge pent-up demand to return to socialising out of home and football will play a key role in driving footfall back into pubs and bars.

If the government road map goes to plan, pubs and bars should be fully open with no restrictions on June 21, which is roughly a third of the way through the tournament.

However, until the vaccine has been fully rolled out there still remains some nervousness in returning to hospitality venues with large groups of people. This should mean plenty of opportunity for the off-trade, which will look to maintain some of the uplift that Covid-19 has driven.