As from today the UK is now in lockdown, for the second time this year.

This of course is devastating news specifically for the on-trade, and those that supply this sector, especially with Christmas looming.

Last December was worth £2.89 billion to the on-trade, according to CGA data, and November wasn’t far behind with £2.29 billion.

Many in the industry estimate the November and December weeks account for a 25% uplift in sales through bars and pubs in comparison to a standard week.

This latest four-week lockdown period poses a number of uncertainties about the future, including the fear that even if Covid-19 is significantly under control by December, will consumers still want to go out to bars and restaurants? Will groups of families and friends be restricted in number? And there are plenty more questions, all of which paint a fairly bleak picture for the Christmas ahead.

Since the pandemic began Drinks Retailing has been clear in its message that although many in the off-trade have seen a significant uplift in sales, the plight of the on-trade affects the whole drinks industry, retail and hospitality alike.  

This is the time for the whole sector to come together and indeed the first lockdown proved the drinks industry is not only resilient and agile, but also supportive of others.

One small slice of good news this week came about in the form of a U-turn by the government when it amended its lockdown rules in England to allow small brewers to be able to sell beer for takeaway.

Initially it was indicated that pubs, breweries and brewery taprooms would be barred from selling beer, cutting off this potential revenue stream as well as wasting beer – reported as being up to 7.5 million pints – which may have had to be poured away.

This ruling has now been overturned and now brewery shops will be allowed to open with pre-ordering and remote methods of ordering for collection or delivery.

It’s a small victory but could be a lifeline, particularly for Britain’s craft brewers. The body that represents them (SIBA) has been campaigning for support for this sector tirelessly since March, including earlier this week when it put pressure on the government to rethink the lockdown rules regaring the sale of alcohol.

Of course, learnings from the last lockdown will ensure the off-trade is more prepared than it was in March, but potentially the uplift in sales will be huge.

With the on-trade closed, winter weather on the horizon and an at-home Christmas approaching, retailers will need to be extremely canny in order to keep up with orders, deliveries, supply chain challenges and changes in consumer buying habits.

Social media and communicating with customers will be essential, but 2020 so far has proved that the UK’s drinks retailing sector can cope with anything that is thrown at it. November and beyond will hopefully be no exception.