Brew News

Quarter 1 beer sales worst in 14 years

As Rachael reported last week, trusted watchdog, the British Beer & Pub Association, published the beer sales stats for the first quarter of 2013. The figures revealed that UK pubs have sold 2.9% less pints in the past three months, with a loss of almost 50m pints from the same quarter last year. This furthered the worrying trend George Osbourne’s tax cut will hopefully make strides to remedy.

It seems that pubs have suffered from the long winter, and with the perpetual biting cold in the UK every January, February and March, it’s no surprise that it’s a tricky task to keep Quarter 1 profits sky-high. Now that we’ve got the first set of figures for the 2013 economic year, we can see how the industry has faired in the winter over the past 14 years:

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The highest Q1 sales figure was in 2004, with over 100,000 more barrels sold than the second highest in 1999.

This year’s Q1 figures are the lowest the pub industry has seen in the past 14 years.

If anybody doubted CAMRA’s campaign to axe the beer duty escalator, this illustration would change their minds. Labour’s then-Chancellor, Alistair Darling, introduced it in the ‘bad news’ budget of 2008, and in the coming years, sales took a massive nosedive. From 2009, the first Q1 with the escalator in effect, to it’s conclusion this year, the amount of beer barrels sold crashed by nearly 700,000. According to statistics from CAMRA, 52 pubs were closing every week in this period, and this is the kind of precursor you’d expect from such a stark dip. We can also render this data into a raise-and-fall chart:

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The greatest dip was in the first year of the beer duty escalator, 2009. It fell by 7.7%, an exponential free-fall of 7.5 percentage points from 2008.

Despite the dip reducing in following years, the 2.2 percentage point sales reduction this year, comes where CAMRA predicted 18 pubs were closing a week.

Brigid Simmons, OBE and Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association noted that “beer accounts for 68 per cent of pub drinks’ sales”

“The duty cut has seen brewers and pub companies passing on the reduction to customers,” she said.

The group asserted that these figures precede the impact of this year’s Budget (link), so while the graphs visualise the escalator’s detrimental effect, it doesn’t yet show whether Osbourne’s measure will work.

As the summer looms over the UK, the big test will be the Q2 analyses in July. Will the figures reflect landlords’ jubilation? Watch this space.

See the full figures here.

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