In April 2021, with the resumption of outdoor trading, like-for-like sales across the market, as measured by the Coffer Peach Tracker, opened in decline of 26% against the comparable period in 2019, with total sales down 60% reflecting the large proportion of sites which remained closed.
After trading restrictions were removed sales across the market improved and like-for-like salesa growth was achieved in August and September. Performance was generally stronger in suburban locations than city centres, with consumers staying local during the pandemic and much of the workforce continuing to work from home. Footfall within major cities remained well below pre-pandemic levels making trading in city centres more challenging. However, footfall has been slowly increasing in cities and an improvement in performance has followed, a trend which is expected to continue. We believe that the desire to socialise in pubs and restaurants, and to share experiences which cannot easily be replicated at home remains strong and that there is pent-up demand which has built during closure.
Digital technology became increasingly important in supporting the business during the pandemic. Technology allows the service cycle to be adapted whilst adhering to Government restrictions. Facilities such as guests' ability to make an order at table on their phone helped pubs and restaurants to reduce contact between teams and guests. Guests became more accustomed to digital elements of their experience in pubs and restaurants, such as scanning a QR code to access menus, and paying on their mobiles, and therefore the use of technology to enhance guests' experience has been accelerated due to the impacts of Covid-19.
Brexit remains an important event for the market and has created risks for the sector, principally around the supply and cost of products and workforce shortages. Risks in relation to procurement have been well managed by buying ahead to mitigate the potential lack of availability of products, reviewing and updating key contracts to maintain commerciality of agreements, identifying contingency markets and maintaining strong commercial relationships with key suppliers. Our apprenticeship programme has been a key asset in managing the risk around workforce shortage and remains a focus for the business going forward.