Sport: international football and shopping

The Football World Cup and the European Cup are usually terrific festivals of football. This makes them major retail opportunities as well. In 2018, half the world tuned in to watch at least some games of Football's World Cup. Global advertising spending rose by $2.4bn and World Cup betting in the UK rose from £1bn (2014) to £2.7bn. The Centre for Retail Research has followed these and subsequent games, providing forecasts since the late 2000s, and given forecasts also for the Olympics.  


The European Cup competition 2020 was held in summer 2021, just as the economy and populace of the UK were restarting following successive lockdowns and the closure of many shops and stores. Football is very close to people's hearts. Success for British footballers on the pitch could do more to spur the economy forwards than a thousand political speeches. 

This certainly happened in England, even if nowhere else in the UK.  Success of the English team drove forward the food and drinks trade such that sales in June 2021 were +9.5% higher than the previous month, largely attributed by the ONS to football fever. In football England, Wales and Scotland field different national teams. In the 2020s Cup (ie in 2021) as usual the only national team to play winning football was the England one. It reached the final, but was defeated in the penalty shoot-outs (again, as usual). 

We estimate that increased spending resulting from the Euros was as much as £3,430m

  • £2,615m in retailing
  • £815m in hospitality (mostly pubs, cafes, and hotel bars)

This research was funded by, whose support is gratefully acknowledged. Further details - see below.

These are additional sales figures - ie we deducted normal spending from the revised estimate, as otherwise how could any tell whether sales had risen or fallen?.

Why so accurate? The figures are calculated not by using a grand algorithm, but estimating spending on a large number of different spending categories and then adding them all up. That is why the figures seem so precise, but probably are only correct to +/- 8%. 

But is this additional spending?  Yes. If you invite people round to watch the footie, we include the actual spending on food, drink and treats but deduct what they would have spent anyway on the dinner or tea they would have had normally. Similarly additional spending in pubs to watch the Euros, is minus what would be spent in pubs anyway without the Euros. 

Surely, increased retail spending NOW means less in a few months' time? We heard this a lot. The answer is No.  This argument is an example of what we term the RETAIL-FUND FALLACY, so named after 19th century fallacies such as the wage-fund or the iron law of wages (note: the latter means your wage rise means someone else's wage reduction. So wages in total can never rise!). There is not a fixed sum that consumer spend on retail or in pubs. It is possible for retailers to increase their share of total consumer spending. In the 2010s, retailers lost market share in favour of higher spending on foreign holidays, meals out, weekends away etc. Spending more now on one category of consumer expenditure, does not necessarily mean spending less in future. Particularly as these proponents of the gloomy science were telling us all the way through 2020,H2 and 2021,H1, that ONS data showed that personal savings had increased by more than £180bn, which should have been more than enough to cover an extra pub meal, friends around for the evening and a little more drink than normal.  

Lastly, get a sense of proportion! Although increased spending of more than £2.6bn sounds a tremendous amount it is insufficient to galvanise the economy. We never said it would be, but it is still worth celebrating. Total retail sales in 2021 will be around £404bn, so proportionately that increased spend is only a 0.6% boost. Football-related spending probably helped shoppers to get out and about and supported pubs and stores in the aftermath of the Lockdown III, but it could only be part of helping the economy get on track. 

Our Estimates of Spending for World Cup 2018

We estimated that additional consumer spending on the 2018 Football World Cup in the UK was £2,451m. This was made up of extra retail spend of £1,914m and extra spending in pubs of £510m. The Euros 2020 figures of course were much higher, but then there was more to celebrate.    

Euro 2020-related Spending 2021


£m Spend

Food & drink




TV electrical




Retail Totals


Pubs clubs cafés




Most additional spending went on retail goods, particularly food and drink. Sportswear sales were poor as there was insufficient supply. Many retailers were completely unprepared for the Euros. Although TV sales rose, it was much less than had been seen in previous football campaigns. Dixons has said they are trying to reduce the impact of event-driven spikes in demand, but just as important may be the fact that many months of lockdown had meant lots of households had already installed the best-quality TV/entertainment devices they could afford. Normally, subsidiary winners from sports competitions are companies selling souvenirs, barbeques and garden furniture. This time these products were all in short supply because Far-eastern manufacturers and global shippers, hit by covid and lack of capacity, were unable to fulfil orders. In addition, dour weather in England for much of the competition sucked the joy out of barbeques and certainly reduced some food spending. 

Our Sporting Forecasts

The World Cup 2018 Unlike many other commentators, a careful study of England’s competitors that we made in each stage of the competition made us very optimistic about England progressing past the Group of 16, though we expected they would go no further than the quarter finals. They outperformed expectations by actually reaching the Semi-finals.

The Euros 2020. We expected England would reach the Quarter Finals, but they got all the way to the Finals. 


The Centre for Retail Research has carried out a number of research projects into the retail impact of special events, including the World Cup, EUFA, the Olympics, the Royal Wedding, the birth of Prince George and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Need to know more?

If you need more information about Centre of Retail research please us our contact form to send us a message

Check Out Our Blog

Learn what's new in the world of retail, and keep up to date with retail disruption, crisis, challanges, events and crime.