British Pub Sales Drop

Dramatic decline in beer sales at British pubs blamed on convergence of factors

Beer sales in British pubs have slumped to their lowest level since the Great Depression, including a 10% drop in pints drawn in just the past year, an industry group said Monday. Beer sales fell 4.5% between April and June this year, compared with the same quarter last year.

A nationwide smoking ban that took hold last year, rising costs, competition from supermarkets and an economic downturn may all be to blame.

The British Beer and Pub Association’s Quarterly Beer Barometer revealed that pub managers around the country are now pulling around 14 million pints a day — a fair amount — but some 1.6 million fewer than last year and 7 million less than at the height of the market in 1979.

In Britain, the BBPA’s quarterly barometer also highlighted the growing trend for drinkers to enjoy a pint in the comfort of their own home instead of at the pub. While overall sales are down, sales in shops and supermarkets rose nearly 4 percent.

Pubs have repeatedly criticized supermarkets for selling multipacks of drinks at below cost to entice custom.
The BBPA, whose members brew 98 percent of Britain’s beer and include nearly two-thirds of the country’s pubs, fear the declining sales will speed up the closure of pubs and clubs around the country.

More than 1,400 pubs called last orders for the final time in 2007 and the Campaign for Real Ale claims that more than half Britain’s villages are “dry” for the first time since the Norman Conquest of 1066.

BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward urged the government to rethink the heavy taxes on alcohol, accounting for some 90 million pounds (around US$180 million) of revenue each year, which the industry blames in large part for its woes.

“We need a change of approach from the government,” Hayward said. “Brewing is a major industry, beer our national drink and pubs a treasured part of our national culture.”