Ireland gave the world its favorite theme pub, but at home there are signs that the bar boom is over. Buried within this week’s release of disappointing retail sales data came a decline of 5.3 percent in bar sales. Publicans and their trade association, the Licensed Vintners, have been issuing dire warnings about declining interest in pubs. This week’s news seems to confirm their worst fears. Diageo, owners of the Guinness brand — which dates from 1759 — have had to re-launch in Ireland, thanks to falling beer sales. Drink sales fell 5 percent by volume last year.
The news could not have come at a worse time with the ban on smoking in the workplace likely to hit alcohol sales further. While there is talk that non-smokers could be tempted back into pubs and bars, few in the trade are optimistic.
The poor retail sales data came as a shock to economists. The signs were that Ireland was doing better than the rest of Europe, but the recent run of disappointing economic news from euro land appears to have spread to the republic, with the euro being blamed.
Despite an apparently strong Irish labor market, jobs lost in manufacturing and other industries may be replaced by lower paid employment in the likes of the hotel and catering businesses. One of Europe’s problems is lack of consumer demand. The Irish shopper is suffering a similar loss of confidence.
In addition, the high profile campaigns against “rip-off Ireland” being waged by the large political parties have backfired: shoppers have stopped spending, convinced that they are being overcharged.
Publicans have been among the first to notice weaker spending, especially because middle class, middle aged people are deserting pubs and switching from beer to wine. They usually buy wine from the large multiples, but the recent proliferation of specialist wine-based off-premise is also part of the picture. A decade ago the likes of Oddbins and upmarket Berry Bros would never have been seen in Ireland. In contrast to pubs and bars, off-premise is thriving. (Source: Beverage World)