UK beer sales decline slows

UK beer sales continued to fall in 2011, though the rate of decline slowed compared to recent years.

It was also the first year since 1996 that the on-trade performed better than the off-trade.

The latest UK “Beer Barometer” from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), showed pub sales dropped by 3.4% last year – the slowest rate since 2004.

The figure does, however, represent 139 million fewer pints sold in the UK pub trade.

The BBPA says this decline could be halted – and thousands of jobs saved – if the government abandons plans for further above-inflation rises in beer tax in the March Budget.

The trade body says the slowing in the decline in beer sales is linked to a drop in the rate of pub closures, which are closely linked to the trend in beer sales.

Off-trade beer sales were down 3.7% over the year (136 million pints), the first time since 1996, when the European Championships were held in England, that the off-trade has put in a weaker performance than the on-trade.

Total beer volumes fell by 3.5%. The BBPA estimates this has led to an estimated 9,000 jobs disappearing from the sector in 2011 – mostly in Britain’s pubs.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “The decline in beer sales has slowed, but these figures show the sector cannot afford another round of inflation-busting beer tax hikes in the Budget.

“This will delay any potential recovery in an iconic and economically vital British industry.

“A change of course, giving brewers and pubs a chance to invest and expand their operations, could create over five thousand jobs in 2012, which should be a great year for British beer and pubs with the Queen’s Jubilee, Euro 2012, the Olympics and Paralympics.

“These events could provide a real boost for the UK economy and boost employment, but this will only be possible if the government reverses planned tax increases and damaging over-regulation.”

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