Overall, UK beer sales fell 2.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2013, according to the British Beer and Pub Association’s (BBPA) quarterly Beer Barometer published today.
Off-trade sales were more stable, rising 0.1 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2012.
Beer sales currently support around one million jobs and generate almost £8bn in tax revenues. Eighty seven per cent of the beer consumed in the UK is brewed in the UK.
This decline in pub sales reflects the trend in recent years, according to the BBPA. But the association also pointed out that “the long winter will certainly have hit business in pubs”.
However, the figures represent the period before the Chancellor scrapped the beer duty escalator at the March 2013 Budget, and the BBPA is hopeful of better second quarter pub sales.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of BBPA, said: “The figures show the Chancellor was right to cut beer duty and abolish the escalator, given the huge tax rises in recent years.
“We would hope to see the benefits in second quarter sales, where brewers, pubs and pub-goers will see beer tax rates at nearly seven per cent lower than they were due to be.
“Beer has a very special place in pubs, and accounts for 68 per cent of pub drinks’ sales. The duty cut has seen brewers and pub companies passing on the reduction to customers. It will encourage brewers and pubs to invest and create jobs.
“Other measures in the Budget will also help pubs, and are a further recognition that the Government understands the importance of our sector. The changes to National Insurance were particularly helpful, as the pub trade largely comprises small businesses and employs around 600,000 people directly.”
Andrew Griffiths MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, said: “These figures show just how important it is that the Treasury supports the brewing industry.
“By scrapping the beer duty escalator and cutting beer duty for the first time since 1959, I am sure the coalition Government is giving the brewing industry a shot in the arm and that this will lead to growth in the sector in the future.”
Do you think the harsh winter is to blame for falling sales? And will the beer tax cuts help boost the pub industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.