UK: Beer sales slump across on and off trade
Published:  27 January, 2009

Total beer sales dropped by 8.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2008, compared to the same quarter in 2007.

Total beer sales dropped by 8.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2008, compared to the same quarter in 2007.  According to the UK Quarterly Beer Barometer, this is the highest fourth quarter fall since records began in 1997.

The UK Quarterly Beer Barometer, the comprehensive guide to beer trends in Britain published by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), shows that 2.2 million fewer pints were drunk every day in the final quarter of 2008, than in the same quarter of 2007. Compared with the fourth quarter ten years ago, 404 million fewer pints were sold across the country in the final quarter of 2008 – a decline of 4.4 million pints a day.

Beer sales in pubs, bars and restaurants were down 9.9 per cent on the same quarter in 2007 – equating to 1.4 million fewer pints every day. In total, 130 million fewer pints were sold in the on-trade during October to December 2008 compared with the same period in 2007.

Sales were also down in supermarkets and off licenses.  Sales fell by 6.5 per cent in the final quarter of 2008 compared with 2007.  This is the second consecutive quarterly fall in the off-trade.

In total, beer sales for the whole of 2008 fell by 5.5 per cent, compared with 2007.  On-trade sales were down by 9.3 per cent and off-trade sales fell by 0.2 per cent.

The declines have hit the Government’s revenues at the worst possible time for the public purse – it is estimated that tax income from duty and VAT are down £181 million since the March Budget, compared with the same period in 2007. This despite the fact that beer taxes rocketed by an eye-watering 18 per cent last year.

Rob Hayward, BBPA chief exec said: “These figures highlight the extreme economic pressures hitting Britain’s beer and pub sector.  Beer sales are sinking and many pubs are struggling to survive.  Pub closures have escalated to nearly six a day. 

“Unfortunately, Government tax policy is only making a difficult situation worse.   Due to the Government’s tax escalator and VAT policy, we are facing two further tax increases this year alone.  By the 2012 Budget, the tax on your pint of beer will have increased by up to 40 per cent from February 2008.

“We are not asking for a tax handout, like other sectors.  We just don’t want our tax burden to be made worse.  When it comes to stimulating the UK economy, the Government should not and must not turn a blind eye to Britain’s beer and pub sector.

 “British pub-goers have been hit hard by the Budget and the Pre-Budget Report.  In addition to further tax increases, the Government says it wants pubs to pay an extra £300 million this year alone as the cost of introducing a mandatory code of practice.  The industry’s Axe the Beer Tax – Save the Pub campaign has seen a surge of public support for our beleaguered sector.  It’s time for The Government to respond to these calls and support a great British industry.”


David Williams

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