LONDON (Reuters) - British bars and pubs are already counting the costs of England’s early World Cup exit, their expectations of a bumper summer dashed by the team’s failure to make it through the tournament’s first round.
England’s World Cup performance had been expected to add millions of pounds to the British economy as fans packed out watering holes for live match screenings and a wave of consumer goodwill swept the high street.
But now smaller business owners’ dreams of a lucrative summer have been ruined by England’s worst World Cup performance since 1958.
Many of Britain’s bars and pubs have also been left out of pocket and struggling to recover costly investments in new TVs and lavish decorations made in a bid to attract fans.
“The atmosphere has changed dramatically now; people are still spending but not like they were,” said Kieran Smith, manager of the Corrib Rest pub in west London which hosted sell-out crowds for England’s first two matches against Italy and Uruguay.
“We really went all in for it this time - projectors, decorations, the whole lot,” he told Reuters, referring to the multi-colored bunting and national flags lining the traditional wood-panel led bar. “It just hasn’t been worth it for only two weeks.”
Had England made it past the World Cup’s first round group stage, that would have been worth 175 million pounds ($297.64 million) to Britain’s bars, pubs and restaurants within a 1 billion pound ($1.7 billion) consumer spending spree, according to a report by the Center for Retail Research (CRR).
Qualification for next month’s final in Rio de Janeiro, which was not expected by even the most optimistic of fans, would have been worth almost 2.6 billion pounds to the British retail and leisure industry, the report said.
However, analysts said that while domestic markets often suffer a blip after a major national sporting defeat, the UK economy experienced its fastest growth in more than six months in the first half of 2014 and is unlikely to be affected in the long term.
Professor Josh Bamfield, author of the CRR report, said increased consumer spending would continue for the duration of the World Cup and many larger businesses had actually prepared for an early England exit.
“It’s very sad and unfortunate that this has happened, but no one can say it wasn’t expected,” he said.
Britain’s supermarkets are forecast to make hundreds of millions pounds in World Cup merchandise, food and alcohol sales and Morrisons, Britain’s No. 4 grocer, said customer spending was largely unaffected by the fate of the national team.
“Fans will continue to watch the World Cup and we expect sales to be more affected by the weather rather than England not making it through to the next round,” a Morrisons spokesperson said.
Britain’s bookmakers expected fewer bets to be placed on England’s last match on Tuesday but said they were likely to make up the difference as punters turned to other teams.
Market leader William Hill said it had already taken over 12 million pounds on England’s first two matches and was likely to take more than 200 million pounds on the tournament overall.
But England’s defeat has hit closer to home for some pubs that had prepared for crowds of fans.
Staff at the Star of Kings pub in north London fitted new TVs and refurbished the basement area to cater for World Cup fans. Manager Chris Bown said they now stand to miss out on thousands of pounds when England play Costa Rica in their last game on Tuesday.
“Last week the phone was ringing off the hook with people making bookings, but this time round we haven’t had a single call. If we still had even the smallest chance, [Tuesday] would still be a massive night, but that just isn’t going to happen now.”
($1 = 0.5880 British pounds)
Editing by Mark Heinrich