Home Business News Pub owners call for festive lifeline after a tough year

Pub owners call for festive lifeline after a tough year

by LLB Finance Reporter
20th Dec 23 9:28 am

As December passes its half-way point, many of the UK’s pubs are still awaiting the uptick in footfall that the festive season usually brings.

This comes at the end of another challenging year for pub owners who have been hit hard by the ongoing instability of the British economy, while still reeling from the long term ramifications of numerous lockdowns during the pandemic.

It comes as recent research by small business insurer Simply Business revealed that over half (54%) of SME owners will have to close, put plans on hold or be forced to find other employment if they don’t have a successful festive trading period this year.

Jo Diskin, owner of Robin Hood in Stoke-on-Trent, said, “Pub trade hasn’t been nearly as strong as this time last year. At this point we’re just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

“We have fundraisers and parties booked in January and February. But have had very few bookings through the Christmas period compared to last year. If trade drops any more a lot more pubs will close, so something needs to change!”

The festive trading period is often a lifeline for many small businesses, but the landscape is looking very different this year. In the lead up to December, small business owners reported their top three concerns: rising costs and inflation (69%), not being able to pay their bills (49%) and a negative change in consumer confidence and spending (44%).

Ricky Graham, owner of Crown Hotel in Newton Stewart, said, “To be completely honest it has been absolutely brutal. From the back end of October until now, we’ve seen at least a drop by half week-on-week over the last 6 weeks.

“In the last year, the cost of living alongside the price increases of products and services has had a major impact on my business. And then we’ll have another minimum wage increase in April next year.”

Ben William, owner of The George & Dragon in Much Wenlock, said, “Rising costs across the board have put pressure on margins.

“We’re reluctant to keep increasing prices as we don’t want to price customers out of visiting. The situation with utilities is well documented and we feel the government needs to do more to support hospitality businesses. Staffing for skilled team members is hard.

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“We’re a chef down and haven’t been able to find a suitable candidate so have reduced our offering and made the menu simpler. We haven’t seen a festive uplift yet, with school term coming to an end we’re hoping to see more of an uplift once people are in holiday mode.”

Almost four in five (79%) small business owners have reaffirmed how important it is for consumers to shop locally and support independent businesses over Christmas – two in five (38%) say that it is ‘absolutely critical’ for the future of their business.

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business added, “A robust Christmas trading period has the potential to serve as a much-needed tonic for the UK’s pubs who have been dealt a very challenging hand in 2023, especially with heightened energy costs and business rates.

“As four in five SME owners stress how important it is to support small businesses over Christmas – we encourage consumers to think about their local pubs when planning social festivities this December.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local communities, and with over five million of them in the UK, together they contribute trillions of pounds to the economy. They are quite simply the backbone of the economy and need our support now more than ever.”

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