Croissant and coffee

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The UK’s branded coffee shop market has suffered a sales decline of nearly 40% over the last year, according to an industry report.

The World Coffee Portal’s Project Café UK 2021 report revealed that disruption caused by Covid-19 has set sales in the sector back to 2013 levels, wiping nearly £2bn from market value.

Figures contained in the report show the UK branded café segment posting negative sales and outlet growth – down 39% and 1.9% respectively – for the first time in over 20 years.

The total UK branded coffee shop segment currently comprises 9,159 outlets, a net decrease of 182 over the last 12 months.

However, the UK’s three largest branded café chains, Costa Coffee, Greggs and Starbucks, added 56, 28 and 30 stores for a total of 2,681, 2,078 and 1,025 outlets respectively. Caffè Nero now operates 648 UK stores after a net drop of 16 outlets.

Greater London, which accounts for more than a quarter of all UK branded cafés, saw the number of outlets in the sector fall for the first time in 20 years, down 1.9% on 2019 to 2,330.

Negative outlook

Against a backdrop of trading restrictions and reduced footfall, 59% of industry leaders surveyed by World Coffee Portal reported a year-on-year loss exceeding 5% over the last 12-months. Those loss-making operators report an average negative financial impact of £27,650 per store, per month.

Just 15% of industry leaders surveyed were positive about the current trading environment, down from 69% from a year ago.

According to Allegra research, 85% of UK consumers typically visit coffee shops at least once a week, but just 56% maintained this frequency during the pandemic.

A number of operators, including Costa, Greggs, Starbucks and Caffè Nero, have responded to restrictions by offering delivery, and 26% of UK consumers surveyed said they would use such a service if it were more readily available.

Pandemic restrictions have also seen a growth in drive-thru coffee outlets. Costa, Starbucks and Tim Hortons have the largest UK presence in this area, with 200, 109 and 10 sites respectively, having added a combined 76 locations during 2020.

“We anticipate further casualties over the next 12 to 18 months and further government assistance may well be required”

Despite strategies to mitigate the effects on business from Covid-19, World Coffee Portal forecasts it will take at least three years before the segment returns to pre-pandemic levels.

“While there’s no doubt the UK’s branded coffee shops are here to stay, Covid-19 has had a devastating impact over the last 12 months,” said Jeffrey Young, Allegra Group founder and CEO.

“Recovery will require significant innovation, discipline and leadership, with successful operators adapting to ongoing trading challenges with smart, technology-led solutions and new store formats.

“Unfortunately, we anticipate further casualties over the next 12 to 18 months and further government assistance may well be required to ensure the short-term viability of many coffee shops and the wider hospitality industry,” Young added.