Cider maker sees festive sales hopes turn flat as Omicron rules bite

The company behind the Magners and Bulmers cider brands has revealed that trading was hit last month as restrictions to tackle the spread of Omicron drained festive sales to bars and pubs.

Dublin-based drinks group C&C said “on-trade” conditions last month were “significantly impacted” by rules outlined by governments in the UK and Ireland.

That left it falling short of hopes that the pre-Christmas period would see its sales recover to close to pre-pandemic levels.

Image: C&C said the restrictions affected its key festive trading period

In Britain, plan B guidance urged office-based employees to work from home if possible.

Hospitality businesses were not directly targeted by UK restrictions though they did result in lower city centre footfall, while pleas for caution from health officials may also have dampened the appetite for some festivities.


Pub chain Wetherspoons has claimed the action amounted to a “lockdown by stealth”.

C&C, which also owns brands including Tennent’s Scottish lager, said December, its “key festive trading period” saw it trade with 81% of the outlets it sold drinks to before the pandemic and deliver 64% of the volume.

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It had expected, in both cases, to recover to 90% of the levels seen two years ago.

C&C said annual profits would be affected by the “nature, extent and duration” of restrictions.

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Omicron impacts business

It said that in the September-November period – before the arrival of Omicron – trading had been “modestly ahead” of expectations with “positive consumer sentiment and the return of customers to on-trade hospitality”.

It is the latest company to reveal a hit to sales as a result of Omicron, with travel firms such as Ryanair and Tui affected after testing rules – since dropped – were reimposed and Greggs revealing this week that cautious had hit its performance in December.

Pub chain Wetherspoons said last month that it faced a potentially loss-making half-year period as it claimed Britain was facing a “lockdown by stealth”.