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British pubs' loss from COVID-19 curbs is supermarkets' gain

Tue, 22nd Sep 2020 17:47

LONDON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Britain's supermarket sector
will be a beneficiary of new curbs on the opening hours of bars
and restaurants to tackle a fast-spreading second wave of
COVID-19, analysts said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England's hospitality
venues to start closing at 10 pm from Thursday and restricted
them to table service only, warning the measures could last six
months.

But their loss of trade will be another boon to the
country's major supermarket groups, market leader Tesco
, Sainsbury's, Walmart owned Asda and
Morrisons, as will Johnson's call for Britons to work
from home where possible.

Britain's initial lockdown in March temporarily transferred
the eating out market - bars, cafes, restaurants, school meals
and workplace canteens - to the home, shifting about 30% of the
nation's food consumption back to stores.

With the lockdown lifted in July that trade was gradually
returning to the eating out market, helped by the government's
"Eat Out to Help Out" subsidy scheme.

But the new curbs will slow this normalisation process.

"It's going to further reduce capacity to the food and
beverage sector which is probably going to stick with the retail
channel," said Shore Capital analyst Clive Black.

The new curbs could also have a major effect on the key
Christmas period, when traditionally a huge volume of food and
drink is consumed outside of the home.

Analysts said that while supermarkets would get a festive
fillip at the expense of the food and beverage channel, current
restrictions on households mixing could dramatically impact the
shape of trade.

Former Sainsbury's boss Justin King, currently a
non-executive director of Marks & Spencer, said
Christmas was likely to be characterised by people having more
smaller gatherings spread over the whole of the two-week holiday
period.

"Christmas will still happen, it will still be a sales peak
for retail, food in particular, but I think it's likely to be
less pronounced around just one or two days as its historically,
typically been," he told BBC radio.
(Reporting by James Davey; editing by David Evans)

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