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Beer sales in pubs have almost halved since 2000

Sales of beer in pubs during the summer months have almost halved since the turn of the century, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

The sun has set on last year’s bumper beer sales. (Photo: Wiki)

Brigid Simmonds, the trade body’s chief executive, told the drinks business that pubs’ sales have been impacted by a number of societal changes over the past 20 years, from banning smoking indoors to the 2008 recession, but she believes the main issue is duty on beer.

Total beer sales fell by 2.2% between April and June this year, compared with the same period in 2018, bringing pub owners’ expectations back to normal after last summer’s World Cup boost.

Landlords’ efforts to raise awareness of the Women’s World Cup throughout the summer weren’t enough to help keep revenues at the same level in 2019.

Pubs and bars were hit hardest by the decline, with sales across the on-trade falling 2.8% compared to last summer.

UK sales of beer rose to their highest level in 45 years last summer, according to the trade body, thanks to unusually warm weather and England’s performance throughout the World Cup.

The trade body had hopes that the Women’s World Cup could boost beer sales by 3 million pints, if the Lionesses made it to the tournament and pubs showed the game, adding an extra £9 million to the UK economy.

Beer sales also fell in Greene’ King’s summer quarter, as they suffered in comparison to last year’s World Cup-fuelled boost in boozing.

Beer volumes fell by 6.5%, while value sales sank 4.2% with Greene King’s pub partners.

But sales of beer in the on-trade have been steadily falling since 2000. Moving annual total sales have fallen from 24.3 million barrels in 2000, to 12.7 million at the start of 2019. Sales in the summer trading period have almost halved, from 6.1 million between April and June in 2000, to 3.15 million today.

The BBPA said that pub and bar owners still face “considerable pressure generally with pub numbers continuing to decline as a result of high taxes including beer duty,” while business rates are also an ongoing issue for those in the on-trade.

From 2000 to 2017, pub numbers declined by 12,450, or 20%, according to the BBPA.

According to the Campaign for Real Ale, around 14 pubs close in the UK each week.

The UK government said earlier this year that 76 pub across England would receive funding to diversify their offerings beyond food and drink.

Proposed projects include Post Office facilities within existing pubs, shops, libraries and children’s play areas.

Simmonds told db: “Beer sales have fallen since the turn of the millennium for a variety of reasons, including the introduction of the smoking ban, changes in consumer behaviour and the 2008 recession.

“The greatest impact of all, however, was the Beer Duty escalator policy, put in place between 2008 and 2013. During this period, duty on beer increased year-on-year by 2% plus inflation – a 42% increase over four years. The impact was catastrophic, with a 24% decline in beer sales in pubs, 5,000 pubs closed and 58,000 jobs lost.”

She said that duty on beer in the UK is the third highest in Europe. “We pay 11 times more duty on our beer than Germany does.

“With 7 in every 10 alcoholic drinks sold in pubs being beer, the Chancellor needs to cut beer duty at the next Budget.”

Retail performing better

Off-trade sales of beer, including supermarkets and independent retailers, fell by 1.7% on the same quarter in 2018, to 4.11 million barrels, still well over the 3.86 million sold between April and June in 2017.

Beer sales in the off-trade have fared consistently better over the same period. Sales of beer in supermarkets and shops have risen from 2.98 million barrels between April and June in 2000, to just below 4.1 million this summer.

In fact, last year, supermarkets such as ASDA and Tesco made close to £300 million in just one week of World Cup fixtures.

And while on-trade sales stagnated at the start of the year, falling by 0.8%, the off-trade saw a boost of 2.8% compared to the same period 2018.

Annually, retail beer sales have risen from 11.2 million barrels in 2000, to 15.1 million at the start of 2019.

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